Study: Homophobia takes 2.5 years off your life

A new study suggests that extreme homophobia could take an average of 2.5 years off of your lifespan.

The study notes that “antigay prejudice was specifically associated with increased risk of cardiovascular-related causes of death,” meaning heart attacks and the like.

The researchers, Mark L. Hatzenbuehler and Peter Muennig of Columbia University, and Anna Bellatorre of the University of Nebraska, didn’t find a specific answer as to why there appeared to be a causal link between really hating gays and dying early, but they hypothesized that stress had to something to do with it.

The researchers say that highly-prejudiced people tend be more stressed, and that stress is associated with less-healthy behaviors like “overeating, smoking and heavy drinking.”  They say that they adjusted the data for factors such as “age, race, marital status, income, and education.”

religious right hate

Still, I wonder whether homophobia is on offshoot of a larger unhealthy lifestyle based on where you live, how you’re brought up, your cultural and parental influences, and more.  That’s not to say that health-nuts can’t be anti-gay, but I dig a little digging, to see what commonalities can be found among homophobes, and there are a few, including these summarized by Dr. Gregory Herek for PBS’ Frontline:

When compared to those with more favorable attitudes toward lesbians and gay men, these studies have found that persons with negative attitudes:

are more likely to perceive their peers as manifesting negative attitudes, especially if the respondents are males;

are more likely to have resided in areas where negative attitudes are the norm (e.g., the midwestern and southern United States, the Canadian prairies, and in rural areas or small towns), especially during adolescence;

are likely to be older and less well educated;

are more likely to manifest high levels of authoritarianism and related personality characteristics.

So homophobes tend to be more ornery with others (stress), are more rural and southern (possibly overall healthy implications),  are older and less educated (again, health implications); and tend to more authoritarian (stress).

One thing that was interesting, though, was that the researchers in the new study found that anti-gay prejudice was an even greater health risk than racism.  You’d think the two might go hand-in-hand.

Then again, the religious right types hate gays, but they don’t really hate blacks, at least not as much as they seem to hate gays – though I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of them are racist too.  Still, they don’t focus as much on their racism as they do their homophobia.  But perhaps that’s simply because homophobia is more acceptable in their circles than racism.  Which would mean their racism is pent-up, and you’d think that wouldn’t be terribly healthy either.

I suspect the answer goes to the larger question of what kind of person “hates.”  It’s probably not a terribly healthy mindset overall.

(H/t to Tom Jacobs of Pacific Standard magazine).


(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • Anonymous

    I’ve always associated intolerance with lack of willpower. People who NEED to hate others usually can’t control themselves. They don’t do anything to heal themselves, which is why they need to drink and binge eat to get a high. Conservatives tend to think their legal “habits” are acceptable. Rush Limbaugh with pill addiction, the various alcoholics. Tobacco chewing rednecks. All these vices are legal but really no better just because they are acceptable. In short, being hateful and suicidal legally does not make it OK.

  • Anonymous

    Compare this to the study showing that gay men outnumber straight men as steroid users 4:1. Compensating for something by trying to be the “manly” guy not to fit the gay stereotype. Might explain some of these steroid-abusing violent homophobes in Russia.

  • Anonymous

    Doesn’t help that Chik Fil A, Paula Deen, and the like are all anti-gay. Supporting poison by eating it is never a good idea ;)

  • Matt Rogers

    Another study showed that men who scored high on a test of homophobia were likely to become aroused when shown pictures of gay male pornography. So, these homophobes may be spending their lives trying to hide and suppress gay feelings. I can see this causing stress, which would lead to heart disease.

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  • MJL

    if this were true, Bryan Fischer and Pat Robertson would be dead

  • DrRandyG

    This is a classic example of the scientific maxim: “Correlation does not equal causation.” There *IS* no “causal link” between homophobia and cardiovascular disease. Rather, people who are homophobic have a tendency to a constellation of psychosocial statuses and life behaviors which promote heart disease (i.e. homophobic rednecks probably don’t eat healthily and most likely smoke tobacco).

  • Thom Watson

    Ah, I see my error. These are two separate issues from the same researchers. The gay people who live in more homophobic environments have a life expectancy of 12 fewer years than those who live in more supportive environments, while the homophobes themselves in the former environment have a life expectancy of 2.5 fewer years.

  • AnitaMann

    We’re just at the beginning of learning a lot about the mind-body connection. But what is becoming clear is, thoughts and emotions do affect the body, though in complicated ways we don’t fully understand yet. Fascinating field of research.

  • LanceThruster

    One could hope that with medical advances we could someday double that number to 5.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Aye, I think so too. More likely the real causal factor is the mindset of fear and hate that leads to stress.

    Besides which, the virulent the homophobe, the more likely it is there are unresolved sexual attitudes and/or orientation issues involved — which itself is a source of ongoing stress.

  • pappyvet

    Poison kills

  • cole3244

    this is one study i hope is conservative in its estimates, conservatism has its place after all, who knew.

  • Silver_Witch

    Hmmmm, I over eat and smoke and drink a bit…..better check mirror.

  • Thom Watson

    The press release from Columbia, and most other media reports, are saying “12 years,” not “1.5,” though I have seen a few others with the much lower number. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-02/cums-lil021414.php

  • jomicur

    For years the anti-gay right has been bleating that homosexuality is “an unhealthy lifestyle.” Guess the shoe’s on the other foot now. Not that I expect this will give them pause for even a moment. I’m sure even as I write this that the AFA, FRC, NOM and the rest are already lining up their talking points and drafting their press releases. Junk science! Homosexual propaganda! Etc., etc., etc. Never the less, I’ll go to sleep with a smile tonight, knowing that Tony Perkins, Peter LaBarbera and the rest may kick the bucket before I do.

  • nicho

    Interesting, but I’m thinking it’s more correlation than causality.

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    Yes, I’m familiar with these issues. When he was at UCLA, Dr. Michael Lu did a lot of research on this very subject.

  • bejammin075

    The effects of chronic stress can actually occur before infancy, i.e during fetal development. And even earlier than that: during the fetal development of your mother, or your mother’s mother, independent of your genetics. Stress hormones of a pregnant mother affect the fetus, for example food is scarce and the fetus develops a “thrifty” metabolism. That fetus one day becomes a pregnant mother, and her thrifty metabilism robs her fetus of nutrients, resulting in another offspring with thrifty metabilism, and so on. The thrifty metabolism makes the organism more likely to get all those diseases like diabetes, heart disease, etc.

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    Chronic stress is a killer. This has been demonstrated over and over with populations living in poverty. Sadly, there is some research that suggests that infants living in stress-filled homes can suffer irreversible development issues by age 2.

  • bejammin075

    Right now I’m listening to an excellent book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” and it’s all about how stress (both physical and mental) relates to human disease. The results described in John’s post totally make sense. I bet these gay-haters sit and stew over this and get all worked up about it. This brain activity, simply getting unnecessarily worked up about something, triggers hormonal responses that in dumber animals are how they respond to a lion jumping out to eat them. It works great when you need to evade a lion. The chronic stress of stewing obsessivly on hating gays is going to elevate your heart rate and blood pressure, and do at least a dozen other things that lead to a shorter life span.

    The different results between hating gays vs racism (I bet) has to do with the recent progress of the gays. Traditional racism is more settled, whereas with all the gay victories going on these days, it’s a more potent chronic stressor for those inclined to hate.
    Prediction: these haters, if my chronic stress theory is correct, also have fatter bellies and occasional uncontrolled diarrhea.

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    Thanks for this, John. After I read and fully understand the study, if appropriate, I will send/present it to a group of local health officials.

    In California, San Luis Obispo was the first city in the world to ban indoor smoking in public places, using the health risk for workers as the pivotal justification. The ban spread to other cities and in 1995, California was the first state to enact a statewide ban on indoor smoking in public places.

    What does that have to do with homophobia? Well, it appears that now we can demonstrate that homophobia is public health issue. That is a good pivotal issue to justify anti-bullying curricula in schools, stronger hate-crimes laws, better counselling services for the victims of homophobia and many other things that I can’t think of right now because I haven’t had my morning coffee.

  • Indigo

    Haters hate. And they die young.

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