Ever watched a very angry person spew hateful shit about gays and thought, gee, that guy is going to give himself a heart attack one of these days? Turns out some scientists were thinking the same thing!
The Atlantic reports that researchers at Columbia and the University of Nebraska recently conducted a study designed explicitly to determine if there might be health ramifications of anti-gay prejudice. Their thesis: If the sight of a pair of lesbian moms on a Disney Channel sitcom causes you to froth with rage and send a five-year-old death threats, the constant, grinding stress of being a bigot might put some strain on your heart.
So they pulled mortality stats from the National Death Index and attitude info from the General Social Survey-National Death Index, and the results have just been published in the American Journal of Public Health. Brace for SCIENCE:
The GSS shows that anti-gay prejudice is significantly associated with less education and conservative ideologies. As individuals became more educated, they were less likely to express homophobia.
With regard to mortality, even after controlling for demographic factors, there was still as significant association between homophobia and mortality risk. The difference in life expectancy between those who expressed prejudice and those who did not was 2.5 years. The researchers also looked at specific causes of death—homophobia was linked to cardiovascular-related deaths, but not cancer.
Of course it's not necessarily causative, and there's a lot of overlap between the Bible Belt and the Stroke Belt. But researchers did what they could to control for factors like socioeconomic status and religiosity. They conclude that reducing prejudice could have positive health benefits for the prejudiced, as well.
It's easy to get a bleak chuckle out of the results. Far more sobering, though, is another recent announcement from the same researchers. As the Huffington Post reports, similar methodology found that gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals in less accepting communities live, on average, 12 years less than their counterparts in more open-minded areas.
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