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28 February 2013

Cohabiting same-sex couples less healthy

Study author suggests that stress, discrimination might play a role.

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Same-sex couples who live together report having worse health than heterosexual married couples, a new study finds.

It's not clear why there's a difference, and the study, published in issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, doesn't examine the health records of the people who took the surveys. Instead, it relies on how people described their health.

Still, "when we controlled for socioeconomic status, the odds of reporting poor or fair health were about 61% higher for same-sex cohabiting men than for men in heterosexual marriages. And the odds of reporting poor or fair health were about 46% higher for same-sex cohabiting women than for women in heterosexual marriages," Hui Liu, lead study author and an assistant professor of sociology at Michigan State University, said in a journal news release.

The study looked at how nearly 1 700 same-sex cohabiting men and about 1 600 same-sex cohabiting women described their health and compared the results to different-sex married, different-sex cohabiting, unpartnered divorced, widowed, and never-married counterparts. The findings came from a larger study of whites, blacks and Hispanics aged 18 to 65 who were surveyed from 1997 to 2009.

Why might same-sex couples report worse health?

"Research consistently suggests that 'out' sexual minorities experience heightened levels of stress and higher levels of discrimination, and these experiences may adversely affect the health of this population," Liu said. "It may also be that same-sex cohabitation does not provide the same psychosocial, socioeconomic and institutional resources that come with legal marriage, factors that are theorised to be responsible for many of the health benefits of marriage."

More information

For more details about stress, try the US National Library of Medicine.

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