A study released earlier this week found that gay people subjected to high levels of stigma are more likely to die younger, and a complementary study has found that the same is true for the people propagating that anti-gay prejudice. Individuals who oppose equality for the gay community and support discrimination have a life expectancy that is 2.5 years shorter than for those with more tolerant views. This distinction is consistent across various demographics, including socioeconomic status, level of education, and self-rated health status.
Research has found similar results for white people with high levels of prejudice against black people. Some experimental studies have suggested that harboring prejudice results in increased levels of stress, such as when high-prejudice Whites interact with a cross-race partner, for example. The repeated activation of that physiological stress response increases the risk for long-term disease outcomes and mortality. In other words, it’s unhealthy to be prejudiced.
The researchers note that the mortality risk for those with anti-gay prejudice may be due to other forms of prejudice as well, but anti-gay prejudice was actually a bigger risk factor than racial prejudice:
Antigay prejudice does not exist in isolation, but is present alongside other forms of prejudice. Because the data were limited, we were unable to determine whether it is antigay prejudice in particular, or prejudice more broadly, that is associated with mortality among majority group members. However, our sensitivity analyses indicated that antigay prejudice increased mortality risk more strongly than racial prejudice. Future studies with a wider range of prejudice measures are needed to evaluate whether the health effects of antigay prejudice remain robust to adjustment for other forms of prejudice.
It’s important to note that the questions that assessed anti-gay attitudes in the study did not represent extreme forms of homophobia like violent intent, but actually examined respondents’ moral approval of homosexuality:
- “If some people in your community suggested that a book in favor of homosexuality should be taken out of your public library, would you favor removing this book, or not?”
- “Should a man who admits that he is a homosexual be allowed to teach in a college or university, or not?”
- “Suppose a man who admits that he is a homosexual wanted to make a speech in your community. Should he be allowed to speak, or not?”
- “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?”
Conservatives often describe being gay as an “unhealthy lifestyle.” The research suggests the opposite: being anti-gay is the unhealthy lifestyle, and it’s hurting everybody.