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Is New York's gay-marriage debate good or bad for LGBT adults' health?

BOOSTER SHOTS: Oddities, musings and news from the
health world

June 24, 2011|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
  • Protesters take part in a demonstration to support same-sex marriage outside the Sheraton Hotel where President Obama was attending a function recently in New York. Obama on Thursday touted his efforts to advance gay rights and promised further progress, but stopped short of declaring his support for legalizing same-sex marriage. The state of New York is in discussions whether to legalize same-sex marriage.
Protesters take part in a demonstration to support same-sex marriage outside… (Andrew Kelly / Reuters )

As New York's state Senate considers making the state the sixth to allow gay marriage, now might be a good time to put aside the political consequences of the same-sex debate and take a look at its health effects.

Studies show that amendments restricting rights of same-sex couples to marry (think California and Proposition 8) lead to higher levels of stress and anxiety in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults -- and it also affect their families.

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology surveyed 1,552 gay, lesbian and bisexual adults all over the United States and found that those living in a state that had just passed an amendment in 2006 said they suffered more psychological distress due to more negative media messages and conversations.

A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found a rise in psychiatric disorders -- including a 200% increase in generalized anxiety disorder -- in lesbian, gay and bisexual people living in states that had put in place bans on same-sex marriage.

And, to top it all off, a 2006 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that legalizing same-sex marriage could enhance the mental and physical health of gay and lesbian people. The authors said that gay and lesbian adults receive a lower standard of healthcare than straight people, and tend to suffer from higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicidal behavior.

They also said that married couples tend to live longer than single people -- and that the same would likely hold true for same-sex couples as well.

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.

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