Same-Sex Legal Marriage and Psychological Well-Being: Findings from the California Health Interview Survey

By Richard G. Wight, Allen J. LeBlanc, and M.V. Lee Badgett
December 2012

Psychological distress is lower among lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals who are legally married to a person of the same sex, compared with those not in legally recognized unions. The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, also has implications for understanding mental health disparities based on sexual orientation: There were no statistically significant differences in psychological distress between heterosexuals, and lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons in any type of legally recognized same-sex relationship.

A large body of research has shown that lesbian, gay and bisexual people generally experience higher distress levels than heterosexuals due to social exclusion, stigma and other stressors. Research also shows that, on average, married heterosexuals experience better mental health outcomes than their unmarried counterparts. Since most lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are denied the opportunity to legally marry a same-sex partner, they are potentially denied the positive emotional benefits of the institution of marriage and they appear to be dually disadvantaged in terms of their psychological well-being.

The study was based on data from the 2009 California Health Interview Survey, the nation’s largest population-based state health survey. Respondents between the ages of 18 and 70 were asked about their sexual orientation and same-sex relationship status. The study also included measures of psychological distress and multiple socio-demographic controls.

Click here for the full study.

Click here for the press release.