Marriage does wonders for gay men’s health. At least that’s what researchers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health believe.
A study of gay men in Massachusetts after the state made same-sex marriage legal in 2003 found partnered gay men were less likely to seek medical care or mental health services. Men involved in the study reported a dip in stress-related conditions such as hypertension, depression and adjustment disorders. The study found no reduction in the number of HIV-positive men seeking HIV/AIDS-related treatment.
“Our results suggest that removing these barriers improves the health of gay and bisexal men,” said lead study author and Columbia University researcher Mark Hatzenbuehler, in a statement. “Marriage equality may produce public health benefits by reducing the occurrence of stress-related health conditions.”
This improvement in health also means great savings on health care costs. According to the report, health care spending went down 14 percent for participants. The decrease was particularly striking because it occurred during a period in which average healthcare expenditures increased by 8 percent a year in the United States.
Benefits of marriage equality were not limited to partnered men. The 40 percent of men in a partnered relationship and their single peers showed similar gains.
Hatzenbuehler attributes the change to lifting the social stigma of marriage discrimination that affects both groups of men. Social discrimination contributes to stress and anxiety, which negatively affects the physical and mental health of those who experience that discrimination.
“This research makes important contributions to a growing body of evidence on the social, economic, and health benefits of marriage equality,” he said.
Hatzenbuehler noted this is the first study of its kind to look at health effects of marriage on homosexuals.
The men in the study ranged in age from 18 to over 65, though most were 26-45. They were broadly representative of the gay and bisexual population in Massachusetts that has been found in other studies, but they were slightly younger and better educated.
Lesbians were not included in the study because there was an insufficient number with visits to the clinic at those two time points. However, he says previous studies suggest that the conclusions would hold true for them as well.