Gay and Lesbian Aging: Research and Future Directions

By Gilbert Herdt; Brian De Vries | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Psychological Well-Being in
Midlife and Older Gay Men

Robert Kertzner, Ilan Meyer, and Curtis Dolezal

Psychological well-being in middle-aged and older gay men connotes both a sociocultural context for positive mental health as well as the interactive effects of personality, psychiatric vulnerabilities, and the idiosyncracies of life experience. In addition, historical age cohort effects such as social attitudes toward older adults’ sexuality, in general, and homosexuality, in particular, significantly shape psychological well-being in older gay men. Perhaps because of these complexities, there is little systematic research that examines determinants of well-being in this population. This chapter will review the literature describing psychological health in older gay men, examine data on gay men’s well-being derived from a nationally representative sample, and consider how the life course experience of gay men might shape psychological well-being.

We will focus on the potential applicability of a multidimensional construct of psychological well-being (Ryff & Keyes, 1995) that may help “map” the landscape of well-being in gay adults and, in so doing, underscore the differential mental health significance of social processes that affect the identity of being gay and of becoming older. Ryff’s model of well-being serves several purposes relevant to this chapter. First, by including the assessment of domains related to self-

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