Homophobia is Bad for Your Health

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
(AP photo)

Harboring fear or hatred of gay people can take years off someone’s life, researchers say.


A study out of Columbia University shows homophobia can reduce a person’s lifespan by 2.5 years.


“We found evidence that anti-gay prejudice is associated with elevated mortality risk among heterosexuals, over and above multiple established risk factors,” researchers wrote in the American Journal of Public Health.


“In particular, there was a 2.5-year life expectancy difference between individuals with high vs. low levels of anti-gay prejudice,” they added.


Homophobes tend to have higher stress levels, researchers found, which can cause heart problems, among other ailments.


“Existing evidence suggests that, for highly prejudiced people, intergroup interactions are stressful,” they wrote. “Stress in turn is associated with less healthy behavior, such as overeating, smoking and heavy drinking. These health behaviors are therefore likely mechanisms linking anti-gay prejudice to mortality.”


Led by Mark Hatzenbuehler, assistant professor of sociomedical sciences and co-director of the Center for the Study of Social Inequalities and Health, the research team examined statistics from the General Social Survey (GSS), which asks Americans about their attitudes and behaviors, and the National Death Index, which keeps track of deaths in the United States.


The GSS data that they focused on regarded attitudes toward homosexuality from 1988 to 2002.


Some of the questions given to survey respondents included: “Do you think that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex is always wrong, almost always wrong, wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all?” and “Should a man who admits that he is a homosexual be allowed to teach in a college or university, or not?”


The study also determined that anti-gay prejudice increases mortality risk to a greater degree than racial prejudice.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Homophobia Takes Years Off of Your Life (by Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Anti-Gay Prejudice and All-Cause Mortality Among Heterosexuals in the United States (by Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, PhD, Anna Bellatorre, MA, and Peter Muennig, MD, MPH; American Journal of Public Health) (abstract)


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