Science has long-established the health benefits of a married relationship, but in many areas, marriage isn't a legal option for couples. A study published today in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that committed-but-unmarried same-sex couples living together report worse health than married heterosexual couples. Interestingly, the same-sex couples reported better health than their unmarried heterosexual counterparts.
Methodology of gay marriage health study
Michigan State University sociologist Hui Liu was the lead investigator for this study, which analyzed the approximately 700,000 participants in the 1997-2009 National Health Interview Surveys. The researchers evaluated the approximately 3,330 same-sex individuals who were living together, and compared them to the rest of the sample.
Marriage vs. living together: Lifestyle makes a difference
The researchers concluded that although unmarried same-sex couples enjoyed better health than unmarried heterosexual couples, this was due to socioeconomic factors. When they controlled for those factors, the groups had similar health patterns.
The differences between married and unmarried lifestyles, living together or being married, being in mainstream or minority-type relationships, are wide. Although this study scratches the surface of the issue, until additional data on the long-term health of newly-married gay couples in the U.S. is collected and analyzed, it will be difficult to determine the health effects of marriage on same-sex couples.