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Gay and cohabiting? Straight and married? It could affect your health

A new study has found that cohabiting same-sex couples are more likely to judge themselves as being in poor or fair health when compared to straight married couples.
(Michael Reichel / Associated Press)

Same-sex couples who live together are more likely to judge themselves as being in poor or fair health than are married heterosexual couples, according to a new study.

The paper, published Tuesday in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, examined data in the National Health Interview Surveys from 1997 to 2009. A total of 686,846 survey respondents between the ages of 18 to 65 were asked to describe their relationship status, as well as rate their own health as either poor, fair, good, very good, or excellent.

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After comparing survey responses, authors concluded that cohabiting homosexual couples were more likely to report themselves as being in poor or fair health when compared with heterosexual married couples.

Hui Liu, lead study author and an assistant professor of sociology at Michigan State, said in a press statement that gay, cohabiting men were 61% more likely than straight married men to say they were in poor or fair health. Lesbian women were 46% more likely to say they were in poor or fair health than straight, married women.

However, same-sex couples who lived together were also more likely to report themselves as in better health than straight cohabiting couples, or divorced, widowed or never-married individuals.

The study was an outgrowth of research that suggests marriage promotes mental and physical well-being.

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While the study could not state exactly what caused the disparity in health assessment, authors speculated that it may have to do with discrimination and other stresses experienced by openly homosexual couples.

They also hypothesized that it was because married couples were far more likely to have shared health insurance, as well as other marriage-related support structures.

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“Access to legal marriage may provide same-sex cohabitors health benefits similar to those found in different-sex married persons, reducing health disparity,” the authors wrote.

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