The Impact of Social Support and Mindfulness on the Mental Health of Middle-Aged and Older Gay Men: A Longitudinal Cohort Analysis

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Abstract

This longitudinal study prospectively examined the impact of social support and dispositional mindfulness on 12-month follow-up psychological distress among older gay men. A sample of 186 gay men in Australia aged 42 years and older completed measures of 3 types of social support (appraisal, belonging, and tangible), dispositional mindfulness, and psychological distress at baseline, and the same measure of psychological distress in a follow-up survey approximately 12 months later. Although none of the social support measures, nor dispositional mindfulness, uniquely predicted psychological distress at follow-up, there was a significant interaction between each of the social support measures and dispositional mindfulness. Specifically, all 3 types of social support predicted lower psychological distress at follow-up for men who were low in dispositional mindfulness. However, men who were high in dispositional mindfulness tended to have lower psychological distress overall, regardless of social support levels. This suggests that mindfulness might serve as a protective factor for members of stigmatized groups who have lower levels of social support. These findings might be particularly useful in mitigating psychological distress in gay men and other stigmatized populations, particularly for whom social support may not be readily available.

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