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BACKGROUND: Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals report higher levels of depression and anxiety than heterosexual people. Genetic factors may be a 'common cause' of sexual minority status and psychological distress. Alternatively, these may be correlated because of non-genetic environmental factors (e.g. minority stressors). This study investigated minority stressors and distress in monozygotic twins discordant for sexual minority status. This design provides a test of the role of non-shared environmental factors while minimizing differences due to genetics.

METHODS: Thirty-eight twin pairs in which one was heterosexual and the other was LGB completed a survey. Differences between twin pairs in minority stressors, rumination, psychological distress, and gender non-conformity were examined. Associations between these variables were also tested.

RESULTS: Although there were no significant group differences for distress, LGB twins had higher rumination, a vulnerability factor for distress, than heterosexual co-twins. LGB twins also had higher scores than heterosexual co-twins on expectations of rejection, active concealment, self-stigma, prejudice events, childhood gender non-conformity, and lower scores on sexual orientation disclosure. Differences between twin pairs in rumination were positively associated with differences in acceptance concerns and self-stigma. Finally, self-stigma was positively associated with rumination in the full sample of heterosexual co-twins and microaggressions were positively associated with rumination when looking at exclusively heterosexual co-twins.

CONCLUSIONS: These results support environmental factors as a causal explanation for disparities in rumination between LGB and heterosexual individuals. These factors likely include minority stressors. Rumination may also be associated with minority stressors in heterosexual MZ co-twins of LGB individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1705-1712
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number10
Early online date7 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • sexual orientation
  • twins
  • genetics
  • distress
  • rumination
  • minority stress
  • non-shared environment


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