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Bans on Same-Sex Marriage May Affect Mental Health

Where voters prohibited gays from marrying, psychiatric disorders escalated, researchers find

FRIDAY, March 5, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Gay, lesbian and bisexual people living in states with institutional discrimination -- such as bans on same-sex marriage -- are at increased risk of psychiatric disorders, says a new study.

Researchers analyzed data from lesbians, gays and bisexuals who were interviewed in 2001-2002 and 2004-2005 for the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. The participants lived in states that instituted constitutional amendments banning gay marriage following the 2004-2005 elections.

The researchers found a significant increase in the prevalence of mood disorders, generalized anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorders among lesbians, gays and bisexuals after the states banned gay marriage. The greatest increase -- more than 200 percent -- was seen in generalized anxiety disorder.

The study findings are published online and in the March print issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

"Before this study, little was known about the impact of institutional discrimination toward lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals in our society," senior author Deborah Hasin, an epidemiologist at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, said in a university news release. "The study highlights the importance of abolishing institutional forms of discrimination, including those leading to disparities in the mental health and well-being of LGB individuals."

The news release states that institutional discrimination "is characterized by societal-level conditions that limit the opportunities and access to resources by socially disadvantaged groups."

More information

The American Psychiatric Association has more about gay, lesbian and bisexual issues.

SOURCE: Columbia University, news release, March 1, 2010
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