Could Marriage Equality Be Good for America’s Mental Health?
May 20, 2013 by Maureen McCarty, HRC Associate Director of Digital Media
In the last month, three more states have passed marriage equality legislation and that could spell big improvements in the general mental health of the LGBT community in Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota.
According to Columbia University psychologist Mark Hatzenbuehler’s research, there is a correlation between lesbian, gay and bisexuals individuals living in states with same-sex marriage bans and the rate of psychiatric disorders diagnosed in those states.
Hatzenbuehler told NPR this morning, his analysis of states that banned same-sex marriage found a 37 percent increase in mood disorders, 42 percent increase in alcohol-use disorders and a shocking 248 percent increase in generalized anxiety disorders.
“We showed the psychiatric disorders did not increase in lesbian, gay and bisexual populations in states that didn’t debate and vote on same-sex marriages, “Hatzenbueler said in the interview. “There were also no increases – or much smaller increases – among heterosexuals living in the states that passed same-sex marriage bans.”
Marriage equality remains not just an issue of policy, but moreover an issue that affects the social wellbeing of entire LGBT community. Each step toward equality inches us closer to a more accepting culture in which our youth can thrive.
Just last year, HRC released a groundbreaking study of LGBT youth that their feelings of social ostracism, disaffectedness and disconnection. Of those surveyed, 42 percent claimed to live in a community that is unaccepting of LGBT individuals and 92 percent reported hearing negative messages about being LGBT.
This research was echoed by Hatzenbueler’s analysis of Massachusetts gay male population. He found that the men studied reported multiple stressors during the marriage equality debates in the state, including feeling a loss of safety and second-class citizenship. According to Hatzenbueler, after marriage equality passed the men surveyed reported fewer stress-related disorders
No child should grow up feeling unsafe and less-than his or her peers. It is the responsibility of policymakers, school administrators, parents, government officials and peers to take up the mantle and continue in the fight toward a more equal America for our community today and our children’s future.
To listen to Hatzenbuehler’s interview in its entirty, visit NPR.
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