Psychosocial syndemic risks surrounding physical health conditions among sexual and gender minority individuals

Jillian R. Scheer, John E. Pachankis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Purpose: The high prevalence of physical health conditions among sexual and gender minority (SGM) individuals could be explained, in part, by SGM individuals' disparate exposure to interconnected psychosocial syndemic risks, including substance use, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault. We utilized a syndemic framework to understand the overlapping and potentially synergistic association between psychosocial syndemic risks and physical health conditions among SGM adults. Methods: A sample of 298 self-identified SGM adults (M age = 28.03, SD = 9.86; 47.0% racial/ethnic minority, 41.6% transgender or gender nonconforming) completed an online survey from May 2016 through May 2017. Results: Three (1.0%) participants reported no syndemic risks, 19 (6.4%) reported one, 52 (17.4%) reported two, 85 (28.5%) reported three, 89 (29.9%) reported four, and 50 (16.8%) reported all five syndemic risks. The number of psychosocial syndemic risks was positively associated with the number of physical health conditions and synergistically (i.e., more than additively) increased the overall health burden on SGM individuals. Conclusion: We found evidence for psychosocial syndemic risks as predictors of SGM individuals' physical health. This study is novel in providing evidence for syndemics surrounding a comprehensive set of physical health outcomes among individuals identifying along a full spectrum of SGM identities. The study controlled for HIV to examine syndemic conditions surrounding physical health outcomes beyond this well-established syndemically determined condition. Comprehensive intervention and policy efforts that address co-occurring psychosocial risks for physical health conditions are needed to reduce health disparities affecting SGM populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-385
Number of pages9
JournalLGBT Health
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • mental health
  • physical health
  • sexual and gender minority
  • syndemic
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Urology


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