Dec. 19, 2011 at 3:20 PM ET
Straight men are already known to thrive after getting hitched, but the marriage effect might be just as strong for gay men’s health.
In fact, just the possibility of legalized marriage might make gay guys healthier, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Columbia University researchers looked at the health effects on gay men from legalized marriage, surveying 1,211 patients from a large Massachusetts health clinic focused on the gay, lesbian and bisexual community. The researchers examined the clinic’s billing records 12 months before and 12 months after Massachusetts passed the law in 2004 allowing same-sex couples to get married.
In just 12 months after the same-sex marriage law was enacted, doctor visits declined 13 percent and health care costs decreased 14 percent for gay men, compared to the year prior, the researchers found.
Most of the decrease was in the number of visits men made for conditions such as high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and sexually transmitted diseases, said the study’s lead author Mark Hatzenbueler, a researcher at the School of Public Health at Columbia University. The boost in gay men’s health is likely connected to both the institution of marriage and also the societal changes associated with the new laws.
“What we are saying is that when you legalize same-sex marriage it kind of changes the social environment around gays and lesbians,” Hatzenbueler said. “And that reduces social stigma and stress that has downstream health consequences.”
There weren't enough lesbians in the study to determine legalized marriage's impact on their health. But earlier research by the same researchers found that marriage impacts mental health similarly in gay men and women.
The new study “is adding to the growing body of evidence showing social, economic and health benefits of same-sex marriage,” Hatzenbueler said.