Researchers of what’s been deemed as “the first study to look at the consequences of anti-gay prejudice for mortality” have discovered that lesbian, gay and bisexual people living in less open-minded communities have a shorter life expectancy. GLB people who live in communities with high levels of antigay prejudice are more likely to have a life span that is 12 years shorter than their peers who are not discriminated against.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health released a study, which was published online in the Social Science & Medicine journal, which identified a way to measure a community’s level of discrimination, beginning in 1988. The information was then linked to death rates form the National Death Index, over a 20-year span.
“Our findings indicate that sexual minorities living in communities with higher levels of prejudice die sooner than sexual minorities living in low-prejudice communities, and that these effects are independent of established risk factors for mortality, including household income, education, gender, ethnicity, and age, as well as the average income and education level of residents in the communities where the respondents lived,” the study’s lead author, Mark Hatzenbuehler, PhD and an assistant professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, is quoted in a press release as saying. “In fact,” Hatzenbuehler said, “our results for prejudice were comparable to life expectancy differences that have been observed between individuals with and without a high school education.”
Results showed that 92% of LGB respondents living in low-prejudice communities were still alive. In contrast, only 78% of the LGB respondents living in high-prejudice communities were still alive, according to the study’s authors.
The deaths could largely be attributed to suicide, homicide, and cardiovascular diseases in the high-prejudice communities. LGB people were also more prone to commit suicide at a younger average age (37.5) than those in more welcoming communities (55.7). Still, violent deaths are more likely in more homophobic areas, where the homicide rates are at least three times higher.
Meanwhile, a quarter of deaths in high-prejudice areas were attributable to cardiovascular disease.
“Psychosocial stressors are strongly linked to cardiovascular risk, and this kind of stress may represent an indirect pathway through which prejudice contributes to mortality,” Hatzenbuehler said. “Discrimination, prejudice, and social marginalization create several unique demands on stigmatized individuals that are stress-inducing.”
Considering that I live in Alabama, this does not bode well for my long term health. I think I need to start looking harder for a new job in a more accepting area.