LGBTQ+ People's Mental Health and Pets: Novel Strategies of Coping and Resilience

This article was originally published here

Arch Sex Behav. 2021 Oct 13. doi: 10.1007/s10508-021-02105-6. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

Health disparities persist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ+)-identified people, often shaped by minority stress through anti-LGBTQ+ stigma. Resilience and coping are important for LGBTQ+ people widely, especially through social supports, but further examination is needed into more diverse, expansive mental health assets. Companion animals, or pets, have significant positive mental health benefits in the general population, but more understanding is needed to validate LGBTQ+ people’s lived experiences of minority stress, mental health challenges, and pet-based sources of resilience. We employ the minority resilience framework to ask: What role do pets play in how LGBTQ+ people navigate and cope with stress? This U.S.-based study centers the voices of 45 LGBTQ+ people’s qualitative interview narratives characterizing the diverse coping and resilience-building processes they develop through pet relationships. Findings demonstrate diverse processes surrounding pets as contributing to resilience, as participants emphasized the unique beneficial emotional connections pets provided. Second, pet family members were conceptualized as vital sources of support that promoted thriving. Finally, pet relationships fostered happiness and life enjoyment that augmented participants’ life satisfaction. This study delineates more diverse understandings of how LGBTQ+ people manage stress through their pet relationships, which can provide vital information to service providers and policymakers in more holistically attending to marginalized communities’ health needs.

PMID:34647236 | DOI:10.1007/s10508-021-02105-6