The new 'gender gap'? - Study finds Gay couples less healthy than hetero couples
 

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posted Friday, March 1, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 9

The new 'gender gap'? - Study finds Gay couples less healthy than hetero couples
by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Gay and Lesbian couples living together report poorer health than straight married couples, a new study has found.

Researchers have long observed that married couples enjoy better health than people who are single, divorced, or separated. The new report, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, speculates that legalizing same-sex marriage could reduce this disparity.

In fact, when Dr. Hui Liu, an assistant professor of sociology at Michigan State University, studied the health of Gay and straight couples, Liu found marriage made a difference.

'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,' Liu said.

GAY MARRIAGE NOT STUDIED
It is important that researchers did not study the impact of legalizing same-sex marriage. Still, Liu said it is plausible that if Gay unions were sanctioned by law, it could improve health by reducing stress and discrimination and providing health benefits enjoyed by married 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 added in an interview.

The researchers compared the health of 1,659 Gay couples living together and a similar number of married heterosexuals. They pooled data from 1997 to 2009 National Health Interview Surveys in which people across the country were asked to rate their overall health as excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor.

BLACK WOMEN FARED WORST
Among the study's findings was that African-American women living together as a couple were the most disadvantaged, reporting worse health than other unmarried Black women.

Liu and her co-authors - Corinne Reczek, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati, and Dustin Brown, a post-graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin - suggest that the discrimination and stress that Gay couples experience could contribute to their poorer health.

'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,' Liu added.



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