The Importance of Anticipatory Stress in the Lives of People in Same-Sex Relationships

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Fears about the future, like other types of stress, can diminish well-being and increase anxiety. Minority populations uniquely anticipate challenges and hardships based on the stigmatization of themselves or of their relationships. Policymakers should not simply react to what is known to be stressful in the moment; they should also seek deeper understandings of stress experience within life course contexts, including the stress that people anticipate. Indeed, existing data suggest there may be public health benefits associated with policy changes that reduce the impact of “stress that awaits.” For example, the legal recognition of same-sex relationships is associated with better mental health among sexual minority persons—even if they did not get married. Still, some anticipate that the legal recognition of same-sex marriage will be reversed in the future, and this possibility can be a source of stress as well. By identifying anticipatory stressors, we expand our knowledge of people’s stress universes and better account for the cumulative stress burden that can lead to greater health disparities.