Physical Self-Concept and its Association with Depressive Symptoms among Gay Men and Lesbian Women and their Heterosexual Counterparts

Abstract

The current study aimed to compare Israeli gay men and lesbian women with their heterosexual counterparts on their physical self-concept (PSC) and to further assess the association between PSC and depressive symptoms as a function of sexual orientation. Gay men (n = 142) were compared with heterosexual men (n = 90), and lesbian women (n = 82) were compared with heterosexual women (n = 214), all of whom who completed measures of PSC and depressive symptoms. Results indicated that gay men reported lower positive PSC in comparison to heterosexual men, whereas no differences emerged between lesbian and heterosexual women on PSC. Also, a stronger negative association was found between PSC and depressive symptoms among gay, in comparison to heterosexual, men whereas no moderation for sexual orientation was found for women. The findings may be explained in terms of the social environment surrounding gay men which places an emphasis on the body and appearance, as well as in terms of gender role socialization and communication regarding the prime role of physical appearance for women, regardless of sexual orientation. The PSC vulnerability that emerges for gay men in our study seems particularly relevant to mental health professionals working with sexual minorities.

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Correspondence to Geva Shenkman.

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Shenkman, G., Toussia-Cohen, Y. Physical Self-Concept and its Association with Depressive Symptoms among Gay Men and Lesbian Women and their Heterosexual Counterparts. Sex Roles 83, 114–125 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-019-01092-2

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Keywords

  • Physical self-concept
  • Body image
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Gay men
  • Lesbian women
  • Sexual orientation