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Study: Same-sex cohabitors less healthy than those in heterosexual marriages

Findings may provide fuel for gay marriage proponents
Sunday, March 3, 2013

WASHINGTON — Same-sex cohabitors report worse health than people of the same socioeconomic status who are in heterosexual marriages, according to a new study, which may provide fuel for proponents of same-sex marriage.

“Past research has shown that married people are generally healthier than unmarried people,” said Hui Liu, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of sociology at Michigan State University.

“Although our study did not specifically test the health consequences of legalizing same-sex marriage, it’s very plausible that legalization of gay marriage would reduce health disparities between same-sex cohabitors and married heterosexuals,” he said.

Titled, “Same-Sex Cohabitors and Health: The Role of Race-Ethnicity, Gender, and Socioeconomic Status,” the study, which appears in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, compares the self-rated health of 1,659 same-sex cohabiting men and 1,634 same-sex cohabiting women with that of their different-sex married, different -sex cohabiting, unpartnered divorced, widowed, and never-married counterparts.

As for why same-sex cohabitors reported worse health than people of the same socioeconomic status in heterosexual marriages, Liu said there could be several reasons.

“Research consistently suggests that ‘out’ sexual minorities experience heightened levels of stress and higher levels of discrimination, and these experiences may adversely affect the health of this population,” Liu said.

“It may also be that same-sex cohabitation does not provide the same psychosocial, socioeconomic, and institutional resources that come with legal marriage, factors that are theorized to be responsible for many of the health benefits of marriage.”

According to the researchers, it is possible that providing same-sex cohabitors the option to marry would boost their measures of self-rated health because they would experience higher levels of acceptance and lower levels of stigma.

“Legalizing same-sex marriage could also provide other advantages often associated with heterosexual marriage—such as partner health insurance benefits and the ability to file joint tax returns—that may directly and indirectly in fluence the health of individuals in same-sex unions,” Liu said.

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32 more reader comments:

  1. Probably because they are denied health benefits that normally are given to “families”.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:37pm
  2. Yeah, because of all the societal shit and stress they deal with… duh! Probably could have done the same thing with any group of people who were stigmatized and marginalized by society.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:38pm
  3. Also ….have had to live a lifetime of discrimination …that’ pretty stressful. And high stress, over time, dramatically increases the risk of health problems.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:40pm
  4. My husband and I of 17 years live in Oklahoma, where our marriage is not recognized and I am denied the medical care that the company he works for provides. So, when I get sick, it comes out of our pockets. With me going to school full time, we simply do not have the funds to go to the doctor as often as I’d like to. I’m healthy now, but I can’t imagine what’s going to happen if I’m hospitalized.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:41pm
  5. Seconding Laura and James here. At least Liu recognizes the discrepancy is causes by discrimination and can be helped with a more accepting society.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:44pm
  6. Yeah less healthy because we cant get the health insurance benefits as a family or married couples…duh someone suffers because of discrimination

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:46pm
  7. I already read this on the Texas medical observer at

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:47pm
  8. I wouldn’t have need to spend money doing a study to know this to be true. This study just shows how marginalized people’s Health is directly affected by their social environment.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:49pm
  9. One day, America will be a country where social justice prevails…

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:52pm
  10. A lifetime of stress due to discrimination and disparities can do that to you.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:53pm
  11. Yea, wonder why…

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:54pm
  12. So many do not have access to medical care that is not done by homophobes. It does not matter if the person is in a relationship or not. We in the GLBTQ communities have less access to health care.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:56pm
  13. Oh please! That study is flawed.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:57pm
  14. To have any validity, they should have at least tried to compare “like” to “like” and compared same-sex cohabitors with opposite-sex cohibators of the same amount of time (3-year, 10-year, etc). It still wouldn’t account for discrimination but it would be more accurate. You can’t really compare two different groups, with different benefits and obstacles, and say “see, the one with the more benefits and fewer obstacles is happier!” That’s a given; it doesn’t need a study.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2:01pm
  15. Old news. Cohabiting is well known to produce fewer health vendors than marriage.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2:01pm
  16. Opposite-sex cohabitors are also less health than those in hetero marriages. So this comparison is flawed.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2:05pm
  17. The study itself recognises that this could be the result of societal influences, so I’m not sure why people are getting upset.
    I know for me that I’m much happier, more secure and healthier in my marriage than I ever was living with someone. I think because we choose different partners for happily-ever-after, people who are seeking to achieve commitment and are able to work together in a team. Plus you just feel bonded together in a special way. Something I never experienced in any of my other relationships.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2:14pm
  18. lol my brother married 3 times my other brother 2 times me once to a WOMAN

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2:16pm
  19. it has everything to do with the need for further healthcare reform and the fact that health insurance is cheaper and more readily available for married couples than it is for single/co-habitating couples. This one is something a reach

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2:18pm
  20. I love the word “study.” Now show me the “study” and all the boring details. Show me the validation and reliability of the study through repeated studies by others. Correlations can be created by anyone through mere observation and it is dangerous to create causation through correlations.

    Regardless, it is a “no-brainer” if people don’t have access to healthcare, especially affordable healthcare then health wanes, especially if sick.

    I know this too well. People lose or are denied healthcare insurance or it is just to unaffordable.

    One of my boys is gay and I love him so much and I love his partner. I hope they can get married one day; but even if he is able to marry his partner, the likelihood he would be covered by his partner’s healthcare plan is very remote, the reverse would be the same; of course that is if either had healthcare insurance plans in the first place!

    We are overall a much sicker nation as a whole compared to other nations for the mere fact many of us don’t have healthcare or affordable health care making us sick, sicker, or even to the point of dying. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation!!!!!!!

    What bothers me most about this study as so many others regardless of the topic or so-called data, is it arms others to use the study as exploitations, whether it is to make money off of a false belief as another “holy grail” cure like Dr. Oz is always touting on his shows, or to how this study can be used as weaponry against the progresses regarding the human rights of the LGBT community.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2:20pm
  21. Whatev of course they show ‘the fat lesbians’ too geez

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2:26pm
  22. Hmmm I bet if insurance was more available to same sex couples (ie through marriage) things would be a lot “healthier”

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2:29pm
  23. Maybe that is because of health insurance and denied rights

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2:33pm
  24. yeah, having to worry about your spouse not having health insurance, or even the right to live in the same country, or about your finances because you have to pay the gay tax isn’t helpful for your health.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2:38pm
  25. This is like comparing apples and oranges- put it all on a level playing field in order to control variables, and show Empirical data- otherwise this means nothing and any person who utilizes this to articulate why same sec marriage is “not healthy or right” is as ignorant as this study! This is NOT effective research!

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 3:11pm
  26. My husband could not be on my health insurance until we showed a “Civil MARRIAGE Certificate”! He would have been denied this right if we were unable to acquire this essential document.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 3:35pm
  27. This is actually from Ole Martin Moen in an article about prostitution. I just find it interesting. __________________________________________________________”To make this point clear, we may turn to the literature on, and the debate over, homosexuality in the 1920s and 1930s. What we find in this literature is that homosexuals in the early 20th century also experienced guilt, regret and remorse, were significantly more prone to depression, eating disorders and insomnia than non-homosexuals, and had a significantly higher suicide rate than the rest of the population.

    These figures were used by opponents of homosexuality as allegedly scientific evidence that homosexuality is harmful. Today, however, most of us would claim that they misinterpreted the data. Though we would concede that many homosexuals did suffer from these problems, we would argue that the statistics themselves were insufficient to establish that there was anything inherently harmful in being a homosexual or in engaging in homosexual practice, and that the correlation was most likely due to the social treatment of homosexuals at the time. After all, homosexuals were subject to significant social stigma.”

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 3:39pm
  28. absolute conservative bull shit!

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 3:48pm
  29. Really??? Give me a break.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 4:03pm
  30. maybe because they are not afforded the rights of traditional marriages/spousal privilege like being on their partners health insurance plan

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 4:16pm
  31. This isnt specifically GAY same-sex cohabitators.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 7:49pm
  32. Has nothing to do with us.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 7:50pm