A review in the journal Current Directionsin Psychological Science contends that we can’t say much that is useful about the mental health of gay men and women until we get clearer about a definition of homosexuality.
Sexual orientation can be defined by romantic or sexual attraction or arousal; by sexual activity or behavior; or by “identity,” meaning that a person regards herself or himself as homosexual or heterosexual.
According to the author, what you can conclude about the relationship of sexual orientation to mental health may depend on which definition you choose. Mental health researchers understandably prefer to rely on identity, which can often be found by asking and divides people simply into two categories. Using this definition, they find an association between homosexuality and anxiety, alcoholism, depression, and suicidal tendencies. The influence of social stigma and discrimination is likely to be powerful here, especially because self-proclaimed homosexuality is sometimes associated with nonsexual behavior, appearance, or personal style that does not fit a gender stereotype— some apparent effeminacy in men or “masculinity” in women.
Sexual behavior as the basis for a definition of homosexuality seems inadequate, because a celibate person can be either straight or gay. With arousal or attraction as a standard, many people will turn out to be only more or less homosexual or heterosexual.
But arousal or attraction seems less subject to social pressure than identity or behavior, and it allows the use of biological measures, including physiological responses and brain scans, to define sexual orientation. Researchers might count as homosexual only people who consistently report homosexual identity, behavior, and attraction. Or they might study the causes and consequences of sexual attraction, behavior, and identityseparately.
Until those various approaches have been thoroughly tested, the author believes, we will not know much about the roots of sexual orientation or its relationship to mental health problems.
Savin-Williams RC. “Who’s Gay? Does It Matter?” Current Directions in Psychological Science (2006): Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 40–44.
΄Aρθρο του Harvard Health Newsletter. Dec. 2006. Το άρθρο του Savin-Williams το έχουμε για όποιον/α ενδιαφέρεται να το διαβάσει.