STUDY: Stigma Harms Older Gay Men’s Mental Health, But Marriage Equality Helps

A new study released today by UCLA’s Williams Institute finds that sexual minority stress — a lifetime of stigma — has significant consequences on the mental health of older gay men, but notes that access to marriage creates a protective effect that counteracts some of the negative outcomes. The study’s key findings:

— Minority stressors were significantly associated with mental health, heightening depressive symptoms.

— Older gay men’s aging-related stressors are amplified because discrimination and disassociation have impacted their ability to be financially secure and independent.

— Personal “mastery” (high self-efficacy, self-esteem, and crisis competence) helped mediate the mental health impact of stressors, but did not account for any positive effect.


— Conversely, emotional support helped mediate the effect of stressors on positive affect, but did not help curb depressive symptoms.

Having a same-sex domestic partner, or ideally a legal spouse, boosted both positive affect and helped reduce depressive symptoms.

These results jibe with previous studies that demonstrate the compounding impact of stigma on older gay adults, but they also help reveal a core flaw in the arguments made by those who oppose LGBT equality. When conservatives claim that there are “health consequences” to homosexuality, they are contributing to those very consequences by proliferating anti-gay stigma. This study suggests the best way to support the health of gay adults is to advocate for their right to marry those who they care for.