Research Spotlight: R. Kyle Saunders

R. Kyle Saunders, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology graduating in December 2022, discusses his ongoing research agenda and how the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy has influenced it.

Headshot of R. Kyle Saunders, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology graduating in December 2022, wearing a blue button up shirt and looking at the camera. His hair is shoulder length and he is surrounded by greenery.
R. Kyle Saunders

Saunders is slated to present his research at this year’s American Sociological Association (ASA) conference. The ASA is the national professional membership association for sociologists and others who are interested in sociology. “I am presenting about the stigma and discrimination that sexual and gender minorities face in the healthcare setting, how these experiences or the anticipation of them adversely influence health outcomes, and how these processes differ across birth cohorts,” Saunders said.

Before attending FSU, Saunders received his B.A. and M.A. in Sociology from West Virginia University. He is currently a senior graduate student member of the Claude Pepper Center’s Aging Research on Contexts, Health and Inequalities (ARCHI) working group, through which he mentors other graduate students.

Saunders’ co-authored manuscript entitled “Social Support and Depression Among Men and Women with Same-Sex Experiences in Later Life,” was just published in the premier publication for aging research called The Gerontologist. In this manuscript, the researchers explored how different sources of social support such as from friends, family, and a partner could work differently for the depression of older sexual minorities.

Saunders also recently published an article titled “The Path of Least Resistance Projections of Social Inequalities as a Result of Climate Change in the United States,” has been accepted by the top-ranked journal Demography. In this work, Saunders and his co-authors outline how climate change effects will be distributed unequally across social groups.

The results of Saunders’ research on climate change are telling of the future. He hopes that by spreading the word about sea level rise, he can also raise awareness of how climate change perpetuates inequality.

“Sea level rise is expected to impact these areas and these groups, but it’s more than just affecting currently vulnerable populations,” Saunders said in Hakai Magazine. “We’re also arguing that sea level rise could be a new emerging form of inequality in the country.”

Saunders’s study is based on an analysis of demographic trends in 437 coastal communities.

More recently, Saunders’ FSU thesis entitled, “Religious Transitions, Sexual Minority Status, and Depressive Symptoms from Adolescence to Early Adulthood” has been accepted for publication at Society and Mental Health. Using longitudinal analyses Saunders and colleagues show how, net of selection effects, sexual minorities who became religious across the transition into adulthood reported a significant increase in depression, compared to sexual minorities who were consistently unaffiliated. They argue how the salutary effects of religious affiliation largely found by researchers for decades neglects the experiences of those largely stigmatized and discriminated against by the religious social institution.

When asked about the impact of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy on his research and academic growth, Saunders stated, “I have learned many new skills around writing, publishing, presenting, and mentoring junior graduate students. Over 20 papers that have come through the ARCHI group in the last three years have been published in peer-reviewed academic outlets. This camaraderie, support, and collaboration have been greatly uplifting.”