UROP Mentor: Dr. Stephanie H. Cook

UROP Research Team (2020-2021)

  • Olive Jayakar
  • Zainab Mustafa

What is your research project?

Reducing Daily Stress Among Sexual and Gender Minorities (the REDUCE Study)

What are the goals of your research project?

Emerging adult (EA) sexual and gender minorities (SGM), especially SGM of color, experience a disproportionate burden of mental health disparities as compared to their older SGM and non-SGM counterparts. Sexual minority stress (SMS) theory posits that mental health disparities among SGM arise through exposure to a number of distal and proximal stressors related to their sexual minority identity, such as daily experiences with sexual orientation-related and/or racial discrimination. Moreover, emerging research shows that EA SGM of color who possess multiple, intersecting minority identities (e.g., racial/ethnic minority SGM) are at greater risk for poor mental health outcomes as compared to their White EA SGM counterparts due to experiences with intersectional discrimination. Recent research has shown that mindfulness interventions may be a relevant method through which to reduce the impact of stress among SGM of color and increase well-being. However, there are a myriad of mindfulness interventions, and components of these interventions. Thus, it is unknown which components of mindfulness-based interventions are the most effective at reducing stress and promoting well-being. Thus, the proposed study (N = 80) will utilize the innovative daily diary multiphase optimization strategy (MOST) which employs a 8-arm factorial experiment to determine the most effective, efficient, and immediately scalable combination of the mindfulness intervention components of awareness, purpose, connection, and positive reappraisal. Linear regression and linear mixed modeling analyses will be conducted to assess the study aim.

Why is this research important?

This research is critically important because it will shape our ability to provide services to emerging adults in need as soon as possible. Most importantly, knowing which combination of mindfulness based services are the "best" will increase our ability to provide effective services to sexual and gender minorities of color who experience increased stress from discrimination.

What drives you to conduct this research?

I believe that mental health, the ability to access care that is effective and efficient, and the effect our mental health has on our physical health is widely researched, but not well understood, area. For instance, there are a myriad of mental health interventions, but many of these are laborious, untested, or not sustainable. Thus, I believe that we must address these issues, specifically for sexual and gender minorities of color who have increasing rates of poor mental health and suicidal ideation.

Is there a Call to Action you would like to encourage?

I believe it is time that the needs of Sexual and Gender Minorities of Color be made more visible. This means that we must acknowledge and understand the lived experience of individuals at the intersection of multiple identities (e.g. Black and Female) and oppressions (e.g. Racism and Sexism). I challenge researchers and communities at large to embark on a journey that supports and protects the mental health of sexual and gender minorities of color.

What resources would you recommend to learn more about your research topic?

There are many resources related to intersectionality, mental health, etc. A starting point would be to read "Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism (Routledge, 2004)" by Dr. Patricia Hill Collins.