Marriage Makes Gay Men Live Longer, Lesbians Die Younger?

A new study suggests gay men in same-sex marriages live longer than their single counterparts, but that marriage is no longer helping lesbians live longer.

Studying the Overall Picture of Mortality and Relationship Status

The study, published last week in the International Journal of Epidemiology, took Denmark’s civil registry and used it to follow 6.5 million adults from 1982 to 2011. The study reviewed that data to examine mortality squared against relationship status.

Researchers found marriage itself wasn’t a magic pill that ensured a long life among the population sample. Married heterosexual couples frequently living apart, for instance, saw higher death rates earlier than their counterparts. Also, if someone married more than twice, the likelihood of mortality increased 27% for women with each successive marriage, and 16% for men. That said, in general, marriage was shown to have an associated list of benefits. Of itself, that’s not so groundbreaking.

However, because same-sex unions have been legal in Denmark since 1989, the study offers a unique chance to study the long term impact of partnership and marriage equality. Other studies have suggested concrete benefits to allowing same-sex couples to marry, and this study of Denmark’s population is no different.

Gay Men Appear to Benefit from Marriage But Lesbians Are Facing Elevated Death Rates

Researchers found that mortality rates for married gay men declined sharply during the study period and is now only just above that of heterosexual unmarried or divorced men — though it still remains lower than straight married men. A number of factors could be at play here. The normalization of gay relationships and therein the lowered risk of stigma will be a factor, as will overall movement away from high risk behaviors and a greater awareness and ability to deal with things like HIV, for instance.

Interestingly, however, researchers found that during the study period, the same benefit could not be evidenced for married lesbian couples who, researchers found, faced an increasing mortality rate during the time period. This comes after what had been a steady decline in mortality rates for women.

Why Are Lesbians Dying Younger?

The researchers speculate that a reason for this may be two-fold: the population is at a higher risk of suicide and is possibly under-served by health campaigns, and also that the population is at high-risk of breast cancer. In past studies, higher cancer risk has been attributed to fear of perceived bias from medical staff acting as a barrier to seeking treatment.

It should be noted the study showed men in same-sex marriages appear to also face an elevated risk of suicide compared to heterosexual married men, so clearly marriage is again not a magic cure for society’s woes.

Why Are Studies Like This Important?

Of course, homosexual couples made up only a fraction (1%) of the overall population sample and so drawing any definite conclusions would be unwise. However, this does raise several important questions for further research including why higher suicide rates persists among same-sex couples, and exactly why heterosexual married couples continue to lead the way in low mortality rates.

It is for this reason that such studies are important. As Dr. Morten Frisch, lead author of the study, notes:

“Our study expands on century-old knowledge that married people generally have lower mortality than unmarried and divorced persons. From a public health viewpoint it is important to try and identify those underlying factors and mechanisms.”

“Among men in Denmark, it is more dangerous to be unmarried or divorced than to be married to another man,” Frisch told Live Science in a separate interview.

While this of itself may not sound an important point, it still has value in our political climate today. Take the debate in Minnesota which, against expectations, is a state that is rapidly advancing a marriage equality bill after last year defeating a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage at the ballot.

This week’s public testimony included graphic details from one opponent of marriage equality about how gay marriage will supposedly lead to higher incidences of HIV/AIDS, when in fact the exact opposite has been observed.

Sadly, that’s still not quite the fringe idea it should be and so any evidence of the concrete benefits of marriage — and also the harms of denying same-sex couples marriage — is still very relevant.


Related Reading:

New Legal Guide For California’s LGBT Elders

5 Things You Need to Know About Gay Marriage and the Supreme Court

One Problem Goes Unnoticed: Suicide Among The Elderly

Image credit: Thinkstock.


Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia6 years ago

Interesting. As long as people are happy before they die, that is what matters most. Living is more important than dying.

Aud Nordby
Aud n6 years ago


Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence6 years ago

OOh..just leave people alone to love who they wish to! Worry about your own life for a change!

Vicki Fellner
Victoria Fellner6 years ago

One thing I forgot to mention about my son and his husband. They have been together for 18 years. 16 of them as partners and almost 2 as husbands. That is more years than many other people have. My ex-husband and I were at their wedding and it was beautiful.

char l.
Past Member 6 years ago

There are basically two kinds of Dominionists - the NAR/Charismatic/Pentecostal type, which is active in New Jersey politics (and the guy, Myers, running for PA governor on the Dem ticket), and the hardcore Reconstructionists. The former want a somewhat kinder, gentler theocracy, whereas the latter are full-bore OT Law promoters, i.e., stoning gays, rebellious teens, etc.

The NAR people work to be elected, and then to "transform" their little fiefdom into a theocratic stronghold. They have been working at it a long time, and they are gaining in places. Their greatest strength is the one they attribute to the devil - people don't believe in him/them. We ignore them at our own peril.

I suggest doing some reading at It's scary, but an eye-opener.

David King
David King6 years ago

part 2

Now maybe Republican Right-wingers just think that the 10 commandments are out-dated... BUT either way they are choosing not to follow that which is the motive for their outrage!!!

You can't have it both ways at the same time!!!

David King
David King6 years ago

Okay... If everyone wants the USA to be a Christian Theological State then:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “
(Mat 7:1-3)


Do the Republican right-wingers not understand this... OR perhaps the New Testament is not the part of the Bible that they wish to follow???

I am the LORD thy God
Thou shalt have no other gods
No graven images or likenesses
Not take the LORD's name in vain
Remember the sabbath day
Honor thy father and thy mother
Thou shalt not kill
Thou shalt not commit adultery
Thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not bear false witness
Thou shalt not covet


Now this is from The Ten Commandments which appear twice in the Hebrew Bible, in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. According to the story in Exodus, God inscribed them on two stone tablets, which he gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Now maybe Republican Right-wingers just think that the 10 commandments are out-dated...

char l.
Past Member 6 years ago

David, I don't know if you are aware of it, but there is a LOT of overlap in the population centers like Newark, between the police and religious groups that wish a theocracy. Have you heard of "spiritual mapping"? I think Christie is between a rock and a hard place. His Repub supporters are furious with him because of his positive (and unforgivable) statements about Obama, and he was not invited to speak at CPAC.

I seriously doubt Christie is overly religious, but he has to satisfy them. Racist and sexist - probably. Homophobic? That too. He is far from the worst Republican out there, but I tend to take what he says with a grain of salt. Like Obama, his message changes depending on whom he is talking to.

American politics is a cesspool.

David King
David King6 years ago

We all know that being gay isn’t a condition or disorder.

But yesterday, extremist Gov. Chris Christie said he just isn’t sure about signing a bill banning “gay conversion therapy” – widely denounced by experts as physically and psychologically harmful – for minors.

This after last year he vetoed marriage equality legislation that’s supported by 57% of New Jerseyans. Now he’s willing to risk the health of LGBT teens to pander to his right-wing base. It’s deplorable.

Christie is up for re-election this November.