Mark L. Hatzenbuehler of the Center for the Study of Social Inequalities in Health at Columbia University in New York has conducted many studies pertaining to the effects of prejudice on the gay community. He has looked at varying factors related to the mental and physical health of sexual minority men and women in an effort to raise awareness and provide information that can assist clinicians who help these individuals. In his most recent body of research, Hatzenbuehler revealed that the legalization of same-sex marriage improves the physical and mental health of not only gay men in committed relationships but also of single gay men.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have been stigmatized for decades and have been discriminated against professionally, socially, and medically. They have struggled with limited access to health care and health insurance, which puts them at increased risk for the negative psychological consequences related to these stressors, such as depression, anxiety, fear, and substance use. Because of these restrictions, LGBT individuals are impacted financially and emotionally. When Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, the economic and health consequences for the LGBT community were unknown. Hatzenbuehler used this population cohort to assess their financial expenditures and emotional and physical health in the 12 months prior to and 12 months after the law was passed.
Using billing records of more than 1,200 gay men, Hatzenbuehler discovered that the legalization of same-sex marriage resulted in a 10% reduction in medical costs and 13% reduction in psychological health-care visits. The men experienced a 13% decrease in the number of visits to a medical doctor as well. These reductions were not evident in men being treated for HIV/AIDS, however, showing that the law did not negatively impact current treatments or routine medical care. Additionally, Hatzenbuehler noticed that these decreases were evident for men in committed relationships and also for single gay men. The findings suggest that this highly contested law could have a positive influence on not only those seeking to get married but on the gay community in general. Hatzenbuehler added, “Taken together, our study therefore makes an important contribution to an emerging body of research on the social, economic, and health beneﬁts of same-sex marriage.”
Hatzenbuehler, M. L., O’Cleirigh, C., Grasso, C., Mayer, K., Safren, S., Bradford, J. (2012). Effect of same-sex marriage laws on health care use and expenditures in sexual minority men: A quasi-natural experiment. American Journal of Public Health, 102.2, 285-291.
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