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Study links shorter lifespan for gays and bisexuals in less tolerant communities

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An article published today, February 24, 2014, by Reuters Health reports that a study conducted by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University in New York has found a connection between the lifespan of gays and bisexuals and the tolerance of the community in which they live.

The study's lead author, Mark Hatzenbuehler is quoted as saying, "The size of the relationship between anti-gay prejudice and mortality was large". It has been believed by many that the amount of prejudice in a community is tied to the health of its residents, but proving the stigma has been difficult. The researches used information gleaned from the General Social Survey to draw their conclusion. The study, which is conducted biennially, by asking questions such as this:

Do you think that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex is always wrong, almost always wrong, wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all?

The research team linked the responses from approximately 21,045 people surveyed between 1988 and 2002 to national death records to find out how many had passed away by 2008 and how strong the anti-gay sentiment was in their communities. At the study's conclusion, it was found that 92% of respondents from low-stigma communities were still alive while only 78% from high-stigma areas were still living. According to the researchers, these numbers translate into a life expectancy that is 12 years shorter in areas of intolerance. Many of these early deaths were caused by heart disease, suicide, murder and violence. HIV, AIDS and social behaviors such as smoking and drinking do not appear to have played a role in the early deaths. Ironically, researchers also found a similar correlation among heterosexuals living in less tolerant areas. However, the shortened life expectancy was much less dramatic, coming in at three years.

It appears that it does not matter if you are heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual, living in an area where sexual preference is not accepted by the community can cut the life expectancy short for all of a community members.

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