Minority stress and health: A grounded theory exploration among men who have sex with men in China and implications for health research and interventions
Men who have sex with men (MSM) in China are disproportionately affected by HIV and mental health issues. Although predominately western-based research suggests a minority stress perspective to explain health disparities, how Chinese MSM experience stress related to being a sexual minority and how such experiences affect their health have not been carefully examined. Objective: This study was a qualitative investigation of how stress related to sexuality (e.g., stigma, discrimination, and oppression) are experienced among MSM in China and how these experiences affect their psychological and behavioral health.
In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 24 MSM in China. Grounded theory was employed to guide data analysis.
Six categories emerged, which included: A Family-Oriented, Heteronormative Culture, Interpersonal Rejections and Marginalization, Internalization of Stigma, the Psychological Impact of Minority Stress, Impact on HIV-related Behavioral Health, and Coping. A conceptual model was developed, which illustrated relationships among categories and described sources, processes, and impact of minority stress among MSM in China. Cultural, social, and internalized sources of minority stress were shown to have detrimental effects on participants' psychological health and HIV-related behavioral health. Various coping strategies shared the purpose of navigating well-being in one's direct environment and in the larger culture.
Findings demonstrate the relevance of minority stress in behavioral health among Chinese MSM as well as the need to conceptualize minority stress within MSM's sociocultural context. HIV prevention efforts may benefit from a contextualized understanding of minority stress and addressing minority stress in a culturally congruent, community-centered fashion.