Healthy outlook: Research shows impact of marriage equality on gay mens’ attitude to health care
Tying the knot can have a significant impact on your attitude to health care if you’re a gay man.
In one of the first studies to examine the effect legal marriage has on the health of the LGBTI community, researchers found that making marriage available to same-sex couples improved access to health care among gay men.
‘This is an important question to study, since recent research has shown that LGBT individuals often face barriers to accessing health services including lack of insurance, stigma, and discrimination, and, as a result, can experience poor health outcomes,’ said the study’s lead author, Christopher Carpenter, professor of economics at Vanderbilt University.
‘A very large body of research in economics and sociology demonstrates that marriage is protective for health for heterosexual individuals, but ours is the first to show that marriage policy has meaningful effects on health care access for sexual-minority men.’
University science news journal Futurity reported that Carpenter and his colleagues analyzed 16 years of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a database of information about United States residents’ health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services.
The researchers found that lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults were more likely to get married after having access to legal same-sex marriage. For men, this was directly ‘associated with a statistically significant increase in the probability that they have health insurance, have a usual source of care, and have a routine health check-up,’ said co-author Gilbert Gonzales Jr., assistant professor of health policy.
Study found no similar effect on lesbians
While the impact on gay mens’ health access was positive, the group said it was surprised to discover there was no similar effect on lesbians. However, the professors said more research was now needed to understand the cause for that difference.
Another surprising finding was that while there was increased health insurance coverage and health care access for gay men, they observed no actual health effects in any of the populations they examined.
‘For example, mental health was not improved, and there were no changes in negative health behaviors such as cigarette smoking or heavy drinking,’ Gonzales said.
‘That might mean that it’s too soon to see some of these changes, since legalized same-sex marriage is a fairly recent phenomenon in the United States.’
The researchers now plan to analyze more comprehensive data to see whether they are able to uncover other health impacts related to marriage.
‘If not, this suggests that same-sex marriage laws are not enough to positively impact the health of LGBT people,’ Gonzales said. ‘There is still a lot of room for change in the policy environment to ensure the safety and well-being of these populations, but more research is needed.’