Thesis for doctoral degree (Ph.D.)
Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

Structural, interpersonal, and individual factors influencing sexual orientation-based disparities in mental health:

A socio-ecological perspective on sexual minority stigma

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media coverage

Erasmus University Rotterdam – September 2021
ONE WHO ALLOWS OPPRESSION, SHARES THE CRIME
Imagine talking to a therapist and instead of listening, they will tell you that there’s something innately wrong with you. This kind of ‘conversion therapy’ is still happening in the US and even in the Netherlands, mostly with LGBTQ+ youth. EUR alumnus Dr. Arjan van der Star (31) works as a postdoctoral researcher at San Diego State University and studies how harmful factors like these may help explain why LGBTQ+ individuals continue to report lower mental and physical health than the general population. His research also indicates that a supportive environment may undo the negative effects of stigma and prejudice, so health might be improved again.

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Men holding hands with pride bracelets

media coverage

Karolinska Institutet – December 2020
COMPLEX INTERPLAY WHEN STIGMA SHAPES THE MENTAL HEALTH OF SEXUAL MINORITIES
It is a known fact that sexual minorities are at a higher risk of developing poor mental health, when compared to heterosexuals. The stigma that sexual minorities face has been regarded as potentially the primary cause of this. A new thesis from Karolinska Institutet offers an insight into how stigma-related factors may work in a broader socio-ecological system, considering the complex interaction between structural, interpersonal and individual factors.

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BIography

Dr. Arjan van der Star, Ph.D., M.Sc. (he/him) is a social epidemiologist and public health researcher interested in sexual and gender minority mental health. Dr. Van der Star’s research focuses on the complex mechanisms underlying sexual orientation-based and gender identity-based mental health disparities by examining 1) how sexual and gender minority stigma and related stressors may explain disparities in mental health, 2) how such stigma may operate within a multi-level socio-ecological system surrounding sexual and gender minorities, and 3) how stigma-related factors may interact across these various levels of sexual and gender minority stigma. Hence, through his research, Dr. Van der Star primarily aims to further the theoretical understanding of what drives and causes adverse mental health among sexual and gender minorities, to inform effective policies on how to reduce the risk for such adverse mental health outcomes, but also, by illuminating the mechanisms underlying the link between sexual and gender minority stigma and poor mental health, to inform affirming psychotherapy tailored for sexual and gender minorities. 
Dr. Van der Star is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at San Diego State University and a Postdoctoral Research Scholar with the San Diego State University Research Foundation. In that capacity, he is the Project Director of an NIMH-funded suicide prevention study among sexual and gender minority youth and young adults. Dr. Van der Star also acts as the Vice President of the Sexual and Gender Minority Health section of the European Public Health Association. He obtained a Ph.D. degree at Karolinska Institutet in September 2020, while working in close collaboration with researchers at the Yale School of Public Health, and B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees at Erasmus University Rotterdam in 2011 and 2013, respectively.