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.
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.