Marriage equality is good for the health of queer men, says a new study from Vanderbilt University, which found that same-sex marriage sparked “significant increases” in gay and bi men’s access to care and health insurance coverage. The study, published as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, drew from data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System between 2000 and 2016.
Analyzing the results of this telephone survey, researchers found that Obergefell v. Hodges — the landmark Supreme Court decision that brought marriage equality to the United States — as well as the preceding state legalizations of same-sex marriage, coincided with improved health for gay men in same-sex households.
Specifically, the data showed that a man in a same-sex household is 4.2 percent more likely to have health insurance and 7.3 percent more likely to have received an annual checkup.
There were no significant health changes for women in same-sex households. But researchers say this may be due to the limitations of the data. For example, women in same-sex households are more likely to have children and thus may have crossed state lines to secure a marriage license, a move not tracked by the survey.
The study noted why these changes are significant. Men and women in same-sex households are “significantly less likely to report excellent or very good health, more likely to report fair or poor health, and more likely to report 14 or more bad health days than men and women in different sex households.”
Those in same-sex households are also more likely to engage in substance abuse like drinking and smoking, and less likely to receive preventative care like flu shots and mammograms. The study did not find changes in rates of substance abuse or preventative care, possibly because more time is required to track new developments.
“Recent efforts to dismantle legal access to same-sex marriage may negatively affect family and health outcomes, particularly among men in same-sex households,” the paper concluded. When it comes to attacks on marriage equality, lives are also at stake.