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.”
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).