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Public health benefits of same-sex marriage [Buffie 2011, American Journal of Public Health]

Here is a important article in the June 2011 issue of American Journal of Public Health, an internationally recognized academic journal. The author extends the evidence for a positive relationship between marriage and reduced sickness/death, well documented in the case of other-sex couples, to the case of same-sex couples.

While some issues such as access to health insurance and tax benefits for married couples discussed in the article are more pertinent to citizens of the US;  the authors’ points regarding coping with stress of being lesbian, gay or bisexual, and psychological/health benefits of being in a relationship; are probably relevant to non-US contexts as well.

An important issue that is not addressed in this article is the stress  and health implications of keeping a same-sex relationship secret, or dealing with family/social rejection because of being in a same-sex relationship. Given the numerous instances we hear about; of same-sex couples being ostracised, separated and stigmatized; one wonders if the stress faced by same-sex couples who are known to be in a relationship. is more than the stress faced by people who are single and queer in a largely homophobic society.  Of course this would not be an argument against same-sex relationships, but for simultaneously undoing society’s homophobia – something that can’t just be legislated away. It would be interesting to get responses from you, the readers, on this.

Public Health Implications of Same-Sex Marriage

William C. Buffie, MD. William C. Buffie is with St. Francis Hospital, Indianapolis, IN, and Indiana Internal Medicine Consultants, Indianapolis.

American Journal of Public Health, 10.2105/AJPH.2010.300112
June 2011, Vol 101, No. 6 | American Journal of Public Health 986-990
2011 American Public Health Association


Significantly compromised health care delivery and adverse health outcomes are well documented for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the United States compared with the population at large. LGBT individuals subject to societal prejudice in a heterosexist world also suffer from the phenomenon known as “minority stress,” with its attendant negative mental and physical health effects.

Reports in the medical and social science literature suggest that legal and social recognition of same-sex marriage has had positive effects on the health status of this at-risk community.

Improved outcomes are to be expected because of the improved access to health care conferred by marriage benefits under federal or state law and as a result of attenuating the effects of institutionalized stigma on a sexual minority group.

Full text is available to subscribers at http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/content/full/101/6/986

Correspondence should be sent to William C. Buffie, MD, 7550 Singleton St, Indianapolis, IN 46227 (e-mail: wcbuffie@aol.com). Reprints can be ordered at http://www.ajph.org by clicking the “Reprints/Eprints” link.

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