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Gay marriage law appears to improve the health of gay men

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December 21, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Supporters at a rally in West Hollywood celebrate a court decision to overturn Proposition 8, lifting the ban on same-sex marriage in California.
Supporters at a rally in West Hollywood celebrate a court decision to overturn… (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles…)

Gay marriage may have benefits that extend beyond social and economic factors. A new study finds that laws permitting same-sex marriage influence the health of gay and bisexual men.

The study, published online in the American Journal of Public Health, examined the health impact of same-sex marriage on gay and bisexual men in Massachusetts. Same-sex marriage was legalized in that state in 2003.

Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health surveyed 1,211 patients of a large clinic that specializes in serving sexual minorities and reviewed billing records after the same-sex marriage law was adopted. Data were analyzed regarding visits for hypertension, depression and adjustment disorders, which are all linked to stress, said the lead author of the study, Mark L. Hatzenbuehler.

The study found that sexual minority men had a decrease in medical care (by 13%) and mental-healthcare visits (by 13%) compared with the year before the law went into effect.

The results were not tied to whether men were in partnered relationships, suggesting that same-sex marriage policies have a broader public-health effect than just the impact on individuals.

"These findings suggest that marriage equality may produce broad public health benefits by reducing the occurrence of stress-related health conditions in gay and bisexual men," Hatzenbuehler said in a news release.

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