A new study has found that married LGBT people have better physical and mental health, more money, and greater social support than their single counterparts.
The national study, which was published in the academic journal The Gerontologist, revealed that single LGBT adults over 50 are more likely to have a disability than their married counterparts.
They’re also more likely to report having a lower physical, psychological, social and environmental quality of life, and to have experienced the death of a partner (especially among men).
Numerous studies have shown a link between marriage and happiness among heterosexual couples but this is the first to examine the benefits for LGBT couples.
“In the nearly 50 years since Stonewall, same-sex marriage went from being a pipe dream to a legal quagmire to reality—and it may be one of the most profound changes to social policy in recent history,” says lead author Jayn Goldsen, a research supervisor at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work.
The results of the study were collated from more than 1,800 respondents, all of whom were over 50 and identified as lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual. About one-fourth were legally married, another quarter were in committed partnerships, and half were single. The married couples had been together an average of 23 years, and the couples in committed partnerships averaged 16 years together. Among participants, more women were married than men.
Researchers discovered that, in general, people in committed relationships had better health outcomes than single people, whether they were married or not. But couples who made their union legal fared better socially and financially than unmarried couples in long-term partnerships.
One reason may be that marriage equality has given older LGBT couples access to benefits previously reserved for straight couples— tax exemptions, health care and Social Security survivor benefits, among them.
Rates of heterosexual marriage are on the decline, but in the year following the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, the number of same-sex couples who got married increased by 11%. As of 2016, nearly half of all cohabiting same-sex couples in the U.S. were married.
According to the study, about 2.7 million adults age 50 and older identify as LGBT, a number expected to double in the next 50 years as generations raised in more inclusive environments continue to age.