A supportive father is literally good for the heart.
LGBTQ young people have an increased risk of heart disease due to due to minority stress, which is caused by stigma, discrimination, bullying, or a perception of bias.
However, a new study from New York University indicates that a dad who supports his queer, questioning, or transgender child can decrease this risk of having a heart attack in the future.
“Father support mitigates the negative effects of discrimination on inflammation, but only for low to moderate levels,” Dr. Stephanie Cook, senior author of the study and assistant professor of biostatics and social behavioral sciences at NYU, told ABC News.
“We neglect the role of fathers, and we need to increase interventions as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth are more likely to be rejected by their fathers. Public policy needs to focus on how we can increase support,” Cook added.
The study — which measured levels of C-reactive proteins, an indicator of cardiovascular risk that forms in response to inflammation — followed students in grades 7 to 12 into adulthood. During this period of observation, researchers asked the study's LGBTQ participants if they felt like they had experienced discrimination and received support from their parents.
Surprisingly, the support of mothers had no impact on lowering the risk of heart disease in this study.
"Mothers' support does not mitigate the negative effects of discrimination on inflammation. For fathers' support, there is an association between perceived discrimination and inflammation for both sexual minority and heterosexual youth," Cook said. "We spend so much time on maternal support, but we lose track of the father support. We are seeing biological outcomes that we need to think more critically about."
In addition to an increased risk of heart disease, LGBTQ youth are also more likely than their straight peers to be homeless due to family rejection. They are also more likely to take their own lives, in part due to minority stress. A recent study from the Trevor Project shows that any supportive adult — it need not be a parent — can decrease the risk of a suicide attempt by up to 40 percent.