December 21, 2011
Gay men who live in states where same-sex marriage is legal are healthier, less stressed, and make fewer doctor visits for general medical care, hypertension, and STDs, according to a new study. Researchers tracked data from 1,211 sexual minority men at a large community-based health center serving many LGBT patients in Massachusetts, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2003.
During the 12 months following legalization of same-sex marriage, there was a statistically significant decrease in medical care visits, mental health visits, and mental health care costs among gay and bisexual men, compared to the 12 months before legalization. Health care visits dropped 13 percent and health care costs 14 percent.
The benefits were similar for single gay men and those with partners. HIV-related health visits did not drop among HIV-positive men, suggesting those in need of care continued to use health care services.
"These findings suggest that marriage equality may produce broad public health benefits by reducing the occurrence of stress-related health conditions in gay and bisexual men," lead author Mark Hatzenbuehler, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, said in a foundation news release.
There were too few lesbians in the study to include for the analysis, but previous research suggests that not having the legal right to marry can have a stressful effect on lesbians, gays, and bisexuals, said the foundation release.
"This research makes important contributions to a growing body of evidence on the social, economic, and health benefits of marriage equality," Hatzenbuehler said.
The full study, "Effect of Same-Sex Marriage Laws on Health Care Use and Expenditures in Sexual Minority Men: A Quasi-Natural Experiment," was published in the American Journal of Public Health (2011;e1-e7.doi:10.2105/AJPH.2011.300382).