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Clinical psychological science must move beyond documenting disparities in LGBTQ health toward eliminating them

Brian Mustanski, Kathryn Macapagal

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology

Psychology and other disciplines have exceptionally documented sexual orientation and gender identity disparities in mental and physical health outcomes with psychological antecedents. Research on sexual and gender minority (SGM) health has seen impressive growth, including the launch of dedicated conferences, journals, and designation as a disparity population for U.S. federal research purposes. From 2015 to 2020, the number of SGM-focused research projects funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) increased by 66.1% (cf. 21.8% for all NIH projects). SGM health research has expanded beyond HIV (73.0% of NIH's SGM projects in 2015 down to 59.8% in 2020) into other domains, such as mental health (41.6%), substance use disorders (23%), violence (7.2%), and transgender (21.9%) and bisexual (17.2%) health. Yet, only 8.9% of projects were clinical trials testing interventions. The need for more research on later stages in the translational research spectrum (i.e., mechanisms, intervention, implementation) to eradicate SGM health disparities is the focus of our Viewpoint article. First, research to eliminate SGM health disparities must move toward multilevel interventions aimed at cultivating health, wellbeing, and thriving. Second, research to test how psychological theories apply to SGM people can inform new theories or extend existing ones, which can spur new areas of inquiry. Third, translational SGM health research would benefit from a developmental lens to identify protective and promotive factors across the life span. Finally, using mechanistic findings to inform, develop, disseminate, and implement interventions to reduce SGM health disparities is crucial at this time.

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