Study: LGB Individuals In Anti-Gay Areas Die 12 Years Earlier

A new study from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health has found that lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals living in areas with high levels of anti-gay prejudice live, on average, 12 years less than LGB individuals living in areas of low anti-gay prejudice. The study is the first of its kind to examine a link between mortality and and anti-gay prejudice. From the University’s Press release

Columbia"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," said Dr. Hatzenbuehler. "In fact, our results for prejudice were comparable to life expectancy differences that have been observed between individuals with and without a high school education.” […]

The authors also found that suicide, homicide/violence, and cardiovascular diseases were all substantially elevated among sexual minorities in high-prejudice communities. LGB respondents living in high-prejudice communities died of suicide on average at age 37.5, compared to age 55.7 for those living in low-prejudice communities, a striking 18-year difference. Homicide and violence-related deaths are one of the most direct links between hostile community attitudes and death, and results indicated that homicide rates were over three times more likely to occur in high-prejudice communities than in low-prejudice communities.

Of the deaths in high-prejudice communities, 25% were due to cardiovascular disease, compared to 18.6% of deaths in the low-prejudice communities. "Psychosocial stressors are strongly linked to cardiovascular risk, and this kind of stress may represent an indirect pathway through which prejudice contributes to mortality. Discrimination, prejudice, and social marginalization create several unique demands on stigmatized individuals that are stress-inducing," said Dr. Hatzenbuehler.

The study is also remarkable not just in its conclusions but also in its methods, particularly in the way it quantifies prejudice within a community. As “Dr. Hatzenbuehler points out, the community-level measure of prejudice does not rely on sexual minorities' perceptions of how stigmatizing their communities are, but rather was based on the prejudicial attitudes of all respondents living in that community.”

The full study is available online in the journal Social Science & Medicine.


  1. TJ Parker says

    Hrm. But isn’t it likely that *all* people in anti-gay areas live shorter lives than *all* people in pro-gay areas? I mean, those anti-gay areas are where the poor, illiterate and morbidly obese dwell.

  2. Bill says

    @ TJ Parker : I’d imagine that the paper covers that, but it would be necessary to read it. Unfortunately, the link didn’t show the paper but rather an organization that would charge you to get a copy.

  3. Thedrdonna says

    I wonder how many of the commenters who claim that trans folk are “unbalanced” because of their high suicide rate will be here to make the same claim about these poor souls?

  4. Randal Oulton says

    >> compared to age 55.7 for those living in low-prejudice communities,

    That seems like a low life span, is it looking at American life expectancy?

  5. simon says

    You must have missed the word “suicide”.
    “died of suicide on average at age 37.5, compared to age 55.7″
    They counted only those who committed suicide.

  6. woody says

    Both Columbia’s press release on this study and the Towleroad article are poorly written and very misleading.
    The 12 year gap and overall early death statistics only reflect people who have died. The great majority of people–in both high-prejudice and low-prejudice areas–were still alive when the study concluded.
    Here are the two key bits that were lower in the Columbia release:

    “…the researchers constructed a measure capturing the average level of anti-gay prejudice in the communities where LGB individuals lived, beginning in 1988…
    By the end of the study, 92% of LGB respondents living in low-prejudice communities were STILL ALIVE; in contrast, only 78% of the LGB respondents living in high-prejudice communities were STILL ALIVE.”

  7. Serene says


    I don’t know why anyone would level that charge against LGBs when an array of studies, including the one discussed above, all show that the higher LGB suicide rate is directly related to a hostile environment and the stress that results therefrom. When the environment improves, chronic stress is reduced and the LGB suicide rate plummets.

    Sadly, the situation is very different for trans people. First, transfolk don’t just have a higher suicide rate relative to the general population like LGBs. Their rates of suicide, suicide attempts, and suicidal ideation are so great that it is normative for the trans population. And second, unlike with LGBs, there is no evidence that the trans suicide rate is affected by changes in the social environment or by “fixing” the transgender’s dysphoria. Not even full surgical transition reduces the trans suicide rate. This suggests that trans suicide results not from external factors, but from mental illness related to transgenderism. How I wish that trans activists would focus their passion and energy on finding solutions for this prevalent mental illness as opposed to gaining access to womens’ bathrooms.

  8. Michael says

    Sorry Homo Genius. LGB is a good term to use, even if it is somewhat drab and bureaucratic. Outcomes for Ls, Gs and Bs do vary somewhat, so it is more accurate to say LGB than gay. Also, if it is important to Ls and Bs to have recognition and not to be swept into an umbrella term, then I’ll respect their wishes.

    This is all completely different from LGBT” and its many variations. It is when things went beyond LGB, when we were forcibly attached to non-gay people, that our identity was being messed with in a harmful way.

  9. Helene says


    DrDonna/Alliefoo/Fenrox can’t go one day without attacking LGBs. Sorry hon, but homosexuality and bisexuality are nowhere to be found in the DSMV. Transgenderism has not one but 2 spots in the big book o’ crazy.

    Sorry about your d*ck!

  10. Paul R says

    @TJ Parker: the same point occurred to me throughout this piece. The usual (major) link between correlation and causation isn’t mentioned, and should be clarified (if the paper does so) before the other efforts to control for the statistical bias that nearly always accompanies survey findings. (Same, too, for the point cited above about the 92% vs. 78% difference in respondents being alive or dead when the survey was completed.) It doesn’t clarify the age of the average respondent in each type of area, and rural residents tend to be older than urban ones—so naturally they’re more likely to be dead in 12 years. (Causation and correlation are also not crystal clear in the accepted link between mortality and high school education.)

    And while I agree that being gay can induce several types of stress—though again, not universally—being straight is no picnic for many given the persisting view that all straights should be married with wonderful kids and strong religious views. No one pressures me to do any of that! Thank god.

  11. johnny says

    A few decades back, some university’s biology department did studies on plants. There were three groups, Group A was treated well, watered and fed and talked to lovingly. Group B was watered only when it looked limp, yelled at abusively and never fed. Group C was the control group which was watered and fed normally and not talked to at all.

    Group A did wonderfully, thrived and looked fabulous. Group C did OK, but didn’t thrive necessarily.

    However, Group B’s members fared horribly, did not grow, lost leaves and many of them died before the experiment was over.

    When you treat ANY living thing with abuse and neglect, it’s bound to die early. This is what many in the scientific world call a “no brainer”.

  12. Lymis says

    This is the first I’ve seen that is reported this way – about the environment and its effect on people, not about “gays don’t live as long” – which is always used as “proof” that the “gay lifestyle” is what’s harmful.

    Of course, this study will either be ignored or misquoted or completely spun – “See, since these people in these areas are going to die young, they shouldn’t be allowed to raise children who will be left parentless, so we need to keep banning marriage!”

    But it’s good to see, regardless.

  13. AJ says

    WTF? Where did this LGB thing come from? Who decides about these changes? I remember not too long ago a kid coming out in front of his high school by saying “I am LGBT” and everyone applauding him for it. I AM NOT AN EVER-CHANGING AND AWKWARD ACRONYM!

  14. gregorybrown says

    We’ve been told for years by “reliable scientific sources” that being gay is itself a condemnation to a short, emotionally stunted and wretched life beset by all kinds of diseases, both mental and physical. That’s “proven” to be true wherever gross sex deviant live, repressive or supportive.

  15. jamal49 says

    @HOMO GENIUS Some of our lesbian sisters don’t like to be called “gay”. Nice to see that TW is caving in to all the huffy homos who want to drop those pesky and troublesome trans people from the movement for civil equality. LGB? Has a nice ring to it. I’m sure Rick, Jason, et al will be quite pleased.

  16. Pookie says

    Stress kills. Living somewhere that you’re constantly immersed in negative propaganda about yourself is very, very stressful.

    This is news ?

  17. Thedrdonna says

    Jamal, I think it’s phrased that way because the study exclusively focused on homosexuality. It would be worse if they used LGBT when the study specifically doesn’t include trans people. To be fair, maybe trans folks weren’t included in the study because they couldn’t find anywhere that was significantly accepting of trans people.

  18. Mark says

    Pookie, it’s not news, it’s data. Can’t hurt when you want to win an argument…such as “that’s not happening”….”prove it”…or “it’s all in your head”.

  19. GregV says

    The article says that adjustments were made for household income, education, gender, ethnicity and age. Since anti-gay areas tend to contain people who are poorly educated and who fare poorly in jobs, relationships, etc., it seems at first glance as if the actual differences between anti-gay and gay-friendly areas might be much higher than the numbers cited.

    I also wonder if looking at “LGB” people might makes things look slightly rosier than if they had just looked at gay people.
    In anti-gay areas, gay women/lesbians and gay males probably face more hostility than most bisexuals, who probably are for the most part married to opposite-sex partners and completely unidentifiable to the public/employers, etc.

  20. GregV says

    @Jamal: Many of our gay sisters don’t like to be called lesbians, either. After my university group did the common thing of adding “and lesbians” to it’s name, I asked all the women at a meeting who preferred to be called a “lesbian,” and not a single one did. I find it off when a famous woman comes out as gay and says she does not like to be called a “lesbian” and then half media says “Ellen (or whoever) says she’s a lesbian.”
    I’ve always thought “gays and lesbians” sounds like “doctors and women doctors” or “American people and American women.” I much prefer we don’t unnessarily separate ourselves .

  21. Tommy says


    While your speculation about bisexuals is not unreasonable, it might not be borne out by the data. I was surprised to learn that bisexuals fare worse than gays or lesbians on a raft of health criteria. I am speaking here of outcomes generally, not specifically outcomes in homophobic areas. I have not seen a bi-specific study on that. It could be that things even out in those areas. Also, it should be noted that Bs like Ls and Gs all get improved outcomes when their environment improves and they enjoy acceptance and stability.