All posts edited by Madeline Ricchiuto.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Same Sex Cohabitors 'Less Healthy' Says Study

A study released in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior says that same sex couples who are cohabiting are not as healthy as their heterosexual married peers. The author of the study Hui Liu is a Professor at the Michigan State University of sociology. 

It is generally accepted that people who are married have a higher level of health than those who are not married. Using this Hui Liu produced a study that took into account the self reported health of individuals. The data comes from the 1997 to 2009 National Health Interview Service. Participants were aged from 18-65 and came from different racial/ethnic backgrounds. The study used 1,659 cohabiting same-sex males and 1,634 cohabiting same-sex females. These people were compared to different-sex married, different-sex cohabiting, unpartnered, divorced, widowed, and never married people.

I'm going to pause for a second and address an already seemingly blatant flaw in the reasoning for some of the conclusions of this research. The results as discussed by Hui Liu are meant to reflect on homosexual couples who are living together and are presumably in stable long term relationships. However, as far as I am aware, the survey doesn't ask for the sexual orientation of the people who are living together. Nor does it ask what the relationship between the two people may be (again as far as I can tell). So already the data doesn't seem to represent the conclusions the professor wants them to. That being said, it wouldn't be surprising that health in homosexual couples may be lower.

Continuing on; The results were controlled for socio-economic status and Liu had this to say, "When we controlled for socioeconomic status, the odds of reporting poor or fair health were about 61 percent higher for same-sex cohabiting men than for men in heterosexual marriages and the odds of reporting poor or fair health were about 46 percent higher for same-sex cohabiting women than for women in heterosexual marriages." Some of the reasons Liu uses to account for the lower reporting of good health are things such as the stress and discrimination associated with being out, not receiving the same psychosocial, institutionalized or socio-economic benefits as heterosexuals do from marriage. Liu also suggests that by legalizing marriage equality the self reported health levels may level some due to advantages not necessarily granted outside of marriage (such as hospital visitation rights, filing taxes jointly, etc.).
It is no secret that the LGBTQ community faces many challenges, particularly with mental health. Therefore it wouldn't come as much of a surprise to hear that LGBTQ people report feeling less healthy than their straight counterparts. Liu suggests that marriage equality can be a solution to this, and I agree, however I think a larger cultural change needs to come about to truly address and rectify this health issue. I would side with the researcher and say that social stigma and perceived discrimination can probably play a big role in how LGBTQ couples (and individuals) perceive their health and feel.

Read more here. And here.

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