Same-Sex Marriage Law Improves the Health of Single Gay Men

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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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Kendall


    April 25th, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Well obviously if marriage has been proven to improve the health of straight folfs, then it should probably go without saying that it could improve the lives of the homosexual community too. Think about this- imagine how you would feel if you were in a loving and committed relationship with someone but you were forever being told that it was wrong and that you would not be able to live together like other loving couples do. Think about the amount of stress that that would lead you to feel, particularly if you live in a state which offers no legal protection of their rights if something were to happen to you. Think of what a huge relief being allowed to live like other couples in love and being able to make a home together would make you feel. It would be liberating, freeing from those ties that bind. I am not gay but I say let everyne just be happy and allow them the same rights that many of us have been able to enjoy all along.

  • MelG


    April 25th, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    Maybe the presidential candidates should take issues like this into consideration as they continue to consider how to best reform health care in the United States. Maybe if more of us did not feel that our civil liberties were being threatened at every turn then we would all stay healthier. And THAT could be the key to cutting insurance premiums and creating a healthier society all at the very same time.

  • Will


    April 25th, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    So let’s say we do all approve of gay marriage and it becomes legal in all 50 states. Is that really what we want to be known for, allowing the sanctity of marriage for everyone even when the Bible tells us that this is wrong, for women to be with women and men to be with men? I am not sure that is the life lesson that I want my children to be left with. I don’t want health care to come in and be this prop for pushing this idea on to everyone, because no matter what you are never going to make everyone believe that this is the right answer.

  • Georgia


    April 26th, 2012 at 4:16 AM

    This is kind of over reaching if you ask me. Who says that the reduction in billing came from legalization of same sex marriage? There is no direct correlation, just a presumption that this is what caused it.

  • gregg


    April 26th, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    So what if this is a little overreaching Georgia.
    If we are seeing health improvements in a segment of the population that before was experiencing higher than normal rates of medical visits, can’t we just chalk that up to being a good thing?

  • deb


    April 27th, 2012 at 7:58 AM

    the sense of security that legal cover provides and also the very security that marriage seems to bring into a relationship is what could be the reasons for this trend…a good one nevertheless.

  • Kagero


    April 27th, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    @ Will: If gays are, clearly, human, and if God loves all humans, why should legalizing gay marriage be something that isn’t in concert with the teachings of love and responsibility the Bible preaches? In reality, your unfortunate and far-right conservative views, not gay marriage—which I’m sure you’re teaching your children is sinful and all that—will be the only blight on your children’s lives when you find your strict-father model of parenting you no doubt are raising them under causes them mental illness and daddy issues later on in life. Prejudice is taught, not innate. I suggest you pay more attention to the Bible you so vehemently imply you stand by in hating gays. God is love, not hate. Unless your God is the Devil, please stop preaching hate on forums designed to offer people hope.

    @ Georgia: While statistics may sometimes reflect the bias of the statistician, I would hope that your reasons for wondering at this are less ideological than out of concern for sound statistical representation. After all, this board is for offering therapy and hope to people that need it—such as members of the gay community—not trivializing their concerns, which in fact reduces hope. Just my 2 cents.

  • Joel


    April 27th, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    I really don’t think that information like this is going to change the minds of the conservative voters who seem to have a lock on what the social mores and norms are to be in this country.

    I would hope that coming to the realization that just letting people be who they are and love who they wnat to love would be enough, but I am too jaded to think anymore that this can be the truth.

    I am angered and saddened at the sad time to face it that the leaders and the nation just really don’t care all that much about the gay community,and really don’t care if there are things available that make us happy. That is not what they care about at all.

  • roseanna


    April 28th, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    This is such an important milestone for the healthcare and well being of same sex couples. If there were more people who could find a way to support this then we could really make some important strides in terms of becoming more accepted and integrated into the mainstream in all of the country in ways that now we only experience in some of the larger urban areas.

  • Andrew


    April 29th, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    I would suspect that there are a couple of things that we may not have thought about that could be improving the overall health of gay men who would benefit from same sex marriage being made legal.

    Think about how many who may currently not have access to health insurance could go on a partner’s plan. That would benefit entire families, and of course when you don’t have to worry quite as much about how you will pay for care then you are more likely to seek care when it is needed.

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