A study has found a link between homophobia and hormonal changes that can lead to illness.
According to research from Montreal’s Concordia University, people who had suffered homophobia had higher levels of stress hormone cortisol in their brains.
Normally, cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day and are highest in the morning and lowest in the evening.
But those who suffered homophobia had higher levels of the hormone all day.
Cortisol disruption can lead to higher blood pressure, a reduced immunity to infections, bone density depletion and memory loss.
It has also been linked to increased suicide attempts.
Study author, graduate student Michael Benibgui, told the Montreal Gazette: “This shows that homophobia is bad for your health.”
He added that those who seek support services could become more victimised.
“By seeking support, they might become more exposed and become more vulnerable [to attacks],” he said. “It’s a double-edged sword.”
Other studies have found far higher suicide rates in gay and lesbian people and some research says that they are 14 times more likely to attempt to kill themselves than straight people.
There is also evidence to show that gay and lesbian people are more likely to suffer depression and drug addiction.
Mr Benibgui surveyed 63 people in 2003 and 2004 with saliva tests and questionnaires. He said he had not got around to publishing the full study until now.