According to a new study from Michigan State University, heterosexual married couples reported being healthier than same-sex couples who live together — suggesting that the legalization of gay marriage could resolve the disparities.
“When we controlled for socioeconomic status, the odds of reporting poor or fair health were about 61 percent higher for same-sex cohabiting men than for men in heterosexual marriage, and the odds of reporting poor to fair health were about 46 percent higher for same-sex cohabiting women than for women in heterosexual marriages,” said Dr. Hui Liu, an assistant professor of sociology at MSU.
The study was published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior and compared the health of over 3,000 couples, including 1,659 gay couples living together and their married heterosexual counterparts. Liu and her associates used information gathered from 1997 to 2009 National Health Interview Surveys, in which people across the country were asked to rate their overall health on a scale from “excellent” to “poor.”
The study suggests ongoing discrimination may account for the differences. The Atlantic reports:
Among all black women, those in same-sex cohabitating relationships had the worst reported health, while gay white women were healthier than straight white women who were either divorced or living with a male partner. This effect wasn’t seen for men, and points to the possibility of what the authors call a “triple jeopardy”: social stress caused by their sexuality, added on to that experienced by racial minorities and women in general, all could be contributing to their poor health.
While the study didn’t analyze the effect of legalizing gay marriage, the author speculates that it might be the key to improving the health of same-sex couples.
“If marriage can promote health, it is reasonable for us to expect that if same-sex couples had the advantage of legalized marriage their health may be boosted,” Liu said. “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 or indirectly influence the health of individuals in same-sex unions.”