Rural location and exposure to minority stress among sexual minorities in the United States

Eric Swank, David M. Frost, Breanne Fahs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Recently, there has been an increase in the number of studies on minority stress among sexual minorities. Few of these studies have explored the ways in which regional or spatial factors influenced the amount of minority stress that lesbians, gay men and bisexuals (LGBs) endure. To see if living in rural and small towns creates stressful social environments for LGBs in the United States, this study analysed the associations between location and three distal minority stress outcomes, as well as feelings of connectedness to the LGB community. In a sample of self-identified LGBs (N = 285), this study found that rural contexts and small towns often presented harsher social climates for sexual minorities compared with urban locales. LGBs who resided in rural areas tended to feel less connected to LGB communities and experienced higher levels of felt stigma and enacted discrimination. Small town inhabitants displayed some similar patterns, but also reported lower levels of enacted discrimination than expected. Living in Southern states subjected LGBs to more discrimination and less satisfactory connections to LGB communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-243
Number of pages18
JournalPsychology and Sexuality
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • discrimination
  • minority stress
  • rural environment
  • sexual minority
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology


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