Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals Die Sooner in Antigay Communities

By: Michelle Garcia
2.19.2014

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual 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 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.

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," Mark Hatzenbuehler, PhD said. "Discrimination, prejudice, and social marginalization create several unique demands on stigmatized individuals that are stress-inducing."

According to the researchers, several other factors were taken into account, 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.

"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."

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