LGBT people who were married reported better physical and mental health, more social support and greater financial resources than those who were single. This is according to a study from the UW School of Social Work, among the first to explore the potential benefits of marriage among LGBT couples.
The study – titled “Who Says I Do: The Changing Context of Marriage and Health and Quality of Life for LGBT Older Adults” by Jayn Goldsen, BS; Amanda E. B. Bryan, PhD; Hyun-Jun Kim, PhD; Anna Muraco, PhD; Sarah Jen, PhC; and Karen I. Fredriksen-Goldsen, PhD – is part of a longitudinal study with a representative sample of LGBT older adults, focusing on how historical, environmental, psychological, behavioral, social and biological factors are associated with health, aging and quality of life.
For the study, over 1,800 LGBT people, ages 50 and older, were surveyed in 2014 in American locations where gay marriage was legal (32 states and Washington, D.C.). Among those surveyed, about one-fourth were married, another one-fourth were in a committed relationship, and half were single. Married respondents spent an average of 23 years together, while those in a committed, unmarried relationship spent an average of 16 years. Among the participants, more women were married than men, and of the respondents who were married, most identified as non-Hispanic white.
The researchers found that “those legally married reported better quality of life and more economic and social resources than unmarried partnered; physical health indicators were similar between legally married and unmarried partnered. Those single reported poorer health and fewer resources than legally married and unmarried partnered. Among women, being legally married was associated with more LGBT microaggressions.”
The study hopes that “LGBT older adults, and practitioners serving them, should become educated about how legal same-sex marriage interfaces with the context of LGBT older adults’ lives, and policies and protections related to age and sexual and gender identity. Longitudinal research is needed to understand factors contributing to decisions to marry, including short and long-term economic, social, and health outcomes associated with legal marriage among LGBT older adults.”
The findings were published in a February special supplement of “The Gerontologist”.