The Cost of Homophobia: Literature Review on the Human Impact of Homophobia in Canada

This study reviewed research related to homophobia’s negative results on gays, lesbians, and bisexuals (GLB) in terms of its human impact, which was defined as the number of “pre-mature” deaths caused by homophobia. That is, compared to non-GLB mortality rates, human cost measures determine how many GLB have had their lives shortened because of homophobia. Homophobia was defined as an irrational fear of, or aversion to, homosexuals and homosexuality. The related construct of heterosexism was defined as a belief system that values heterosexuality as superior to and/or more natural than homosexuality, and/or assumes that all people are inherently heterosexual. The reviewed research showed that GLB and heterosexuals were equivalent in terms of psychological and psychosocial health and functioning, but that GLB had a shorter life expectancy and faced health risks and social problems at greater rates than the heterosexual population. The suspected reason for these increased problems is the chronic stress placed on GLB resulting from coping with society’s negative responses and stigmatization. Eight major health and social issues were examined: suicide, smoking, alcohol abuse, illicit drug use, depression, unemployment, murder, and HIV/AIDS. In addition, because homophobia results in substandard health care for GLB, the issue of access and quality of health care services was examined for ineffective health services and practices that exacerbate health and social problems.