Sexual orientation and gender differences in markers of inflammation and immune functioning

Ann Behav Med. 2014 Feb;47(1):57-70. doi: 10.1007/s12160-013-9567-6.


Background: Sexual minorities have documented elevated risk factors that can lead to inflammation and poor immune functioning.

Purpose: This study aims to investigate disparities in C-reactive protein (CRP) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) by gender and sexual orientation.

Methods: We used the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to examine disparities in CRP (N = 11,462) and EBV (N = 11,812).

Results: Among heterosexuals, women had higher levels of CRP and EBV than men. However, sexual minority men had higher levels of CRP and EBV than heterosexual men and sexual minority women. Lesbians had lower levels of CRP than heterosexual women.

Conclusions: Gender differences in CRP and EBV found between men and women who identify as 100 % heterosexual were reversed among sexual minorities and not explained by known risk factors (e.g., victimization, alcohol and tobacco use, and body mass index). More nuanced approaches to addressing gender differences in sexual orientation health disparities that include measures of gender nonconformity and minority stress are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism*
  • Crime Victims
  • Female
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / virology
  • Male
  • National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sexuality / physiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / blood
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology*
  • Stress, Psychological / virology


  • C-Reactive Protein