WASHINGTON (CBSDC)– People who have homophobic attitudes often also have higher levels of psychoticism and inappropriate coping mechanisms, according to new research.

The study indicates that homophobic people are more likely to have psychological issues compared to those who are accepting of homosexuality, as reported by LiveScience.

“The study is opening a new research avenue, where the real disease to study is homophobia,” lead researcher Emmanuele Jannini told LiveScience.

Previous research has explored the subject of homophobia with some findings linking negative feelings toward gay people to same-sex desire of the person. Other factors affecting homophobic people appear to be religion, sensitivity to disgust, hypermasculinity and misogyny, according to Jannini and his colleagues.

However, the latest study is considered the first to look at mental health and psychopathology in relation to homophobic views. The team of researchers asked 551 Italian students, aged 18 to 30, to answer surveys on levels of homophobia. The questionairres also included questions on depression, anxiety and psychoticism among participants. Participants were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with 25 statements including: Gay people make me nervous; I think homosexual people should not work with children; I tease and make jokes about gay people.

Students were evaluated on attachment tendencies, referring to how people approach relationships. Researchers note that “healthy” attachment refers to people who feel comfortable getting close to others, while insecurely attached people may avoid intimacy or become quickly clingy with trust issues. Additionally, students were questioned on their coping strategies. Defense mechanisms among participants were categorized as healthy (“mature”) or unhealthy (“immature.) Immature defense mechanisms were marked by behavior like impulsive action, passive aggression, or denial of a problem.

Researchers found the better the mental health of the person, the less likely he or she was to convey homophobic views. Those who were uncomfortable of close relationships with others also showed significantly higher homophobic views than those who were secure. Lastly, participants with a pattern of immature defense mechanisms were more homophobic than those who dealt with matters in more mature ways.

High levels of hostility and anger were linked to homophobia, while health issues like depression and hypochondria were linked with lower levels of homophobia.

The researchers are currently expanding the study to other participants to further strengthen the findings and evaluate how personality and culture relate to homophobia.