Older Gay Men Can Boost Mental Health by Being Married

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com January 19 2012 6:48 PM ET

Older gay men could avoid mental health complications by being married, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Gay and bisexual men over the age of 50 report feeling stress from aging, discrimination based on their sexual orientation, and having lost many friends from the AIDS epidemic. Other age-related stress factors, such as financial status and independence, also affect their mental health. However, having a committed and legally recognized spouse or domestic partner has proven to be a mitigating factor in such stresses.

"This study shines a light on the mental health of a generation of gay men who survived the early years of the AIDS crisis and came of age on the heels of the gay rights movement," Williams Institute scholar and researcher Richard G. Wight, Ph.D., said in a statement Thursday. "Whether legal marriage benefits mental health within same-sex couples in the way it has been proven to benefit different-sex couples deserves much more empirical attention, particularly given that same-sex marriage is not available in most states and was only briefly available in California in 2008."

The study suggests that public health agencies attempt more targeted mental health campaigns for gay and bisexual men over 50.