Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair

Christopher Scheitle

Committee Co-Chair

Jeralynn Cossman

Committee Member

Christiaan Abildso

Committee Member

Robert Bossarte


Fundamental cause theory encourages researchers to consider broad social conditions that put people at risk of individual-level health-related risks that can lead to health disparities between social groups. Stigma has recently been proposed as a fundamental cause of health disparities as it influences multiple disease outcomes, affects access to resources, and is consistently related to health inequities across historical and geographical contexts. Minority stress theory describes how sexual minorities endure excess stressors in the form of prejudice and discrimination due to their stigmatized status. Considering both frameworks, I explore how stigmatized sexual orientation minority respondents compare to their sexual majority counterparts on a holistic subjective measure of health, an objective measure of health, and a measure regarding access to health care. Sexual minority health research has grown rapidly in recent years, but data and methodology limitations have restricted analyses and subsequent topic knowledge at a national level. Using nine years of nationally representative data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG; 2011-2019), I explore three health-related variables—self-rated health (SRH), body mass index (BMI), and access to a usual source of health care (USOC)—by three components of sexual orientation—sexual orientation identity, sexual attraction, and sexual behavior. I provide summary statistics on these elements and other demographic and socioeconomic factors as well as report logistic and multinomial regression results on the health-related variables by each sexual orientation component. Chapter one analyzes the entire NSFG sample except for respondents who were pregnant, under age 25, and/or were missing responses for any variables used (N=23,567). Chapter two splits the qualified sample into females (N=12,895) and males (N=10,672) and Chapter three splits the qualified sample into two age groups (25-34 years old, N=13,038; 35-44 years old, N=10,529)—both report the results of the same analyses on the split samples. Only one result was consistently found across chapters—those who have had sexual experiences with someone of the same sex have lower odds of reporting excellent, very good, or good SRH compared to those who have had no same-sex sexual experience. All other significant differences vary by group analyzed; the male sample had the highest number of significant differences in health outcomes by sexual orientation components and the 35-44 age group sample had the least number of significant differences. We must use an intersectional perspective that considers other statuses such as sex and age to properly investigate and address health-related issues for sexual orientation minorities.