According to a study from Denmark, death rates for its legally committed gay men have dropped considerably since the 1990s. The country made history in 1989, when it became the first in the world to grant civil unions, known as registered partnerships.
Though mortality rates within the LGBT population were high during the worst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, since the arrival of effective treatment Danish male/male couples’ mortality has declined to rates lower than that of gay men who are unmarried or single, and even dropped slightly below that of unmarried or divorced straight men.
The findings match that of previous studies showing that statistically, married couples live longer, but the Danish study is the first to analyze longevity alongside marital status for a whole country.
Marriage Equality USA’s Media Director Stuart Gaffney told 429Magazine, that “In study after study, research is consistently showing there are health and psychological benefits to having equality under the law—as well as detrimental effects from discrimination and inequality. We need marriage equality nationwide because it’s the right thing to do, but studies like this also show that it’s the healthy thing to do as well.”
The data in the study was taken from Denmark’s Civil Registration System, which contains general demographic information such as marital status. The study period the researchers chose to look at was 1982 to 2011. Of the 6.5 million people listed, 1.7 million died during that span, allowing them to calculate the mortality rate and analyze the results for multiple groups. Controlling for variables such as income and location, it was concluded that marital status was a factor in lifespan.
Part of the protective factor proved to be close proximity, as married opposite-sex couples living apart were found to be twice as likely to die as those who lived together. The study also noted that multiple marriages only increased mortality rate, more so for women than men. The people with the lowest risk of death were long-term, married opposite-sex couples.
Though lesbian couples showed a declining death rate for much of the study’s time period, in recent years the number has started to increase; the current mortality rate for married lesbians is higher than either married gay men or opposite-sex couples that are cohabitating. Reasons why were unclear, though researchers theorized that lesbians may be at a higher risk than thought for suicide and certain cancers.
The lower mortality rates of married couples were credited to factors such as emotional support, combined income, and proper healthcare.