SEATTLE — Older same-sex couples who are married are happier and healthier than single members of the LGBT community, a new study finds.
Being married in the later years of life has been associated with positive outcomes for straight couples, now this latest study is among the first of its kind to confirm similar benefits for same-sex couples.
Researchers the University of Washington surveyed over 1,800 American individuals in 2014, aged 50 or older, all of whom identified as being LGBT. About half of those surveyed were single, while there was an even split between participants in a committed relationship and participants who were married among the remaining group.
All respondents resided within states in which gay marriage was legal at the time.
What researchers found was that merely having a partner carried substantial benefits for LGBT individuals, but those who were married showed even greater social and financial outcomes. Married couples also “reported better physical and mental health, more social support and greater financial resources than those who were single,” according to a university press release.
“In the nearly 50 years since Stonewall, same-sex marriage went from being a pipe dream to a legal quagmire to reality — and it may be one of the most profound changes to social policy in recent history,” says lead author Jayn Goldsen, research study supervisor in the UW School of Social Work, in the release.
Conversely, single homosexual individuals were found to suffer from both health and social consequences by eschewing marriage. Some health-related outcomes include a higher likelihood of having a disability, along with a worsened quality of life on physical, psychological, environmental, and social dimensions. Deciding against marriage also closes one off from being able to receive Social Security survivor benefits, along with tax exemptions in the U.S.
While many older LGBT individuals won’t seriously consider marriage, despite its newfound legality, this study clearly presents the case for simply getting involved.
“Marriage isn’t for everyone,” says Goldsen. “It is up to each person, and there are legal, financial and potentially societal ramifications.”
To be sure, one possible ramification of LGBT individuals getting married is societal discrimination. Unfortunately, the safeguards protecting these individuals from prejudice in the workplace, for example, remain limited.
If nothing else, however, this study presents evidence that marriage, regardless of whom it involves, has empirical benefits for most.
The study’s findings were published in the journal The Gerontologist.