A new study out of the University of Montreal suggests that openly gay men and women are less stressed than those who remain 'in the closet'.

Lead author Robert-Paul Juster says lesbian, gay, bisexual individuals who are open about their sexuality with others show lower stress hormone levels and fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.

“We shouldn't all just have to come out,” Juster told CTV Montreal. “It's very a personal process and there’s a lot of research out there that suggests that there's a period of time when there's increased rates of suicide and depression.”

Psychological questionnaires were completed by 87 men and women of diverse sexual orientation, all who were in their mid-20s.

The research team based at the Centre for Studies on Human Stress, looked at levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone, and more than 20 other biological markers including cholesterol and blood pressure to determine whether the mental and physical health of gay, lesbian and bisexual men and women differed from those of heterosexual people. The researchers also looked at whether being openly gay had an impact on stress levels.

Juster said he was surprised that the study, released Tuesday, suggested that gay and bisexual men had lower rates of depression and were more physically fit than their heterosexual counterparts.

He added that openly gay and bisexual men were psychologically healthier than those who hadn’t come out.

“When we looked at people who had come out of the closet and those who hadn't, if you'd come out of the closet you had less anxiety, less depression, less burnout and less levels of the stress hormone cortisol,” Juster said. “So as a group there was something about being out of the closet that made gay and bisexual men more resilient.”

The researchers hope their findings, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, spur a message of tolerance, equal rights and dispel stigmas both nationally and internationally.

“Coming out is no longer a matter of popular debate but a matter of public health,” Juster said.

With a report from CTV Montreal’s Cindy Sherwin