Legalizing same-sex marriage increased health care access for gay men

July 11, 2018, Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt researchers have documented evidence that legalizing same-sex marriage has improved access to health care for gay men in a study released as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper this week. This is one of the first studies to examine the effect legal marriage has on the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals.

"This is an important question to study, since recent research has shown that LGBT individuals often face barriers to accessing services including lack of insurance, stigma, and discrimination, and, as a result, can experience poor health outcomes," said Christopher Carpenter, professor of economics, who led the trans-institutional research team and is the lead author on the paper. "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."

Carpenter and his colleagues in the departments of economics and medicine, health and society at Vanderbilt University and the department of health policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine analyzed 16 years of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a database of information about United States residents' health-related risk behaviors, , and use of preventive services.

While the CDC survey did not specifically ask respondents their sexual orientation, the researchers were able to deduce from related responses about household structure that a sizable percentage of adults in households with exactly two same-sex adults are lesbian, gay or bisexual individuals who are likely in same-sex relationships.

"We found that lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults were more likely to get married after having access to legal , and for men, that is 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 .

The group was surprised to not see a similar effect for lesbian adults, but they plan on future research to better examine the cause for that difference. Another surprising finding was that while there was increased and for gay men, no actual health effects were seen in any of the populations 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 next step is 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 laws are not enough to positively impact the health of LGBT people," said Gonzales. "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."

Explore further: Religious refusal laws harm sexual minority mental health

More information: National Bureau of Economic Research (2018). DOI: 10.3386/w24651 , http://www.nber.org/papers/w24651

Related Stories

Religious refusal laws harm sexual minority mental health

May 23, 2018
Since the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, opponents have shifted their focus to whether individuals can deny services to same-sex couples, from issuing marriage licenses to baking wedding cakes. When ...

Are LGBT Americans actually reaping the benefits of marriage?

June 22, 2017
For decades, researchers have studied the benefits of marriage, finding that married people are likely to be healthier, wealthier and wiser than their unmarried peers.

Health benefits of marriage equality

September 3, 2015
Leading public health experts have urged politicians to support marriage equality and said marriage discrimination contributed to higher rates of poor mental health amongst the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex ...

What are the health-related benefits of the marriage equality ruling for LGBT couples?

August 19, 2015
The U.S. Supreme Court's recent landmark ruling on marriage equality has important, positive health implications for LGBT persons, including the impact of reducing stigmatization and discrimination on mental and physical ...

Study examines health, risks for gay, bisexual adults

June 27, 2016
New national data suggest lesbian, gay and bisexual adults were more likely to report impaired physical and mental health and heavy drinking and smoking, which may be the result of stressors they experience because of discrimination, ...

Lesbian, bisexual women may be more likely to develop diabetes due to stress

May 9, 2018
In a newly published study involving 94,250 women across the United States, researchers found that lesbian and bisexual (LB) women were more likely than heterosexual women to develop type 2 diabetes during the course of the ...

Recommended for you

Crunched for time? High-intensity exercise = same cell benefits in fewer minutes

September 20, 2018
A few minutes of high-intensity interval or sprinting exercise may be as effective as much longer exercise sessions in spurring beneficial improvements in mitochondrial function, according to new research. The small study ...

China's doctor shortage prompts rush for AI health care

September 20, 2018
Qu Jianguo, 64, had a futuristic medical visit in Shanghai as he put his wrist through an automated pulse-taking machine and received the result within two minutes on a mobile phone—without a doctor present.

Time to ban the sale of energy drinks to children, says senior doctor

September 19, 2018
It's time to bring in laws to ban the sale of caffeinated energy drinks to children and young people in England to tackle the twin epidemics of obesity and mental health problems, argues Professor Russell Viner, President ...

For-profit hospitals correlated with higher readmission rates

September 19, 2018
Patients who receive care in a for-profit hospital are more likely to be readmitted than those who receive care in nonprofit or public hospitals, according to a new study published by University of Illinois at Chicago researchers.

Sugar content of most supermarket yogurts well above recommended threshold

September 18, 2018
A comprehensive survey of ingredients in yogurts highlights high sugar levels in many—particularly organic yogurts and those marketed towards children.

Research confronts 'yucky' attitudes about genetically engineered foods

September 18, 2018
Is a non-browning apple less "natural" than non-fat milk? In one case, people have injected something into apple DNA to prevent it from turning brown after it's cut. In the other, people used technology to remove something ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.