Study: Homophobic People Die Younger

by Adrienne Vogt

If this new study is true, the entire Westboro Baptist Church better watch their backs. People who express anti-gay prejudice, like our friend Vladimir Putin and his notorious anti-gay law, have a higher mortality risk than those who don't harbor homophobic views, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health. In other words, the study indicates homophobic people die earlier than those who aren't — a 25 percent increased earlier death rate, to be exact. Woah.

The researchers studied about 20,000 heterosexual people over 20 years, between 1988 and 2008. They used information gleaned from the General Social Survey, which has documented attitudes and trends of Americans since the 1970s. Sample questions included:

  • 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?
  • 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?

By the end of the study, about 4,000 people of the 20,000 had died. Researchers found that those who expressed homophobic tendencies had a high mortality rate, even when accounting for variables like age, income, education, marital status, gender, religion, and racial prejudice. What's more, anti-gay bias was linked to increased risk of fatal heart problems — probably because prejudiced people might have some deep anger issues.

The good news for unprejudiced individuals? They lived an average of 2.5 years longer!

"The findings contribute to a growing body of research suggesting that reducing prejudice may improve the health of both minority and majority populations," the researchers conclude.

Another recent study, undertaken by the same researchers, was more sobering. In what was dubbed "the first study to look at the consequences of anti-gay prejudice for mortality," the Columbia University team found that gay people who live in closed-minded communities face shorter life spans.

The study's lead author, Mark Hatzenbuehler, wrote:

Our findings indicate that sexual minorities living in communities with higher levels of prejudice die sooner than sexual minorities living in low-prejudice communities, and that these effects are independent of established risk factors for mortality, including household income, education, gender, ethnicity, and age, as well as the average income and education level of residents in the communities where the respondents lived.

In that group, threats of violence and death from suicides were more common. This is troubling, to say the least, especially when a recent survey found that 71 percent of people believe it’s OK to discriminate against LGBT people.

So next time you try to make fun of Johnny Weir and his fabulous Olympic headbands, remember the Grim Reaper is always looming.