Mortality Among Men and Women in Same-Sex Marriage: A National Cohort Study of 8333 Danes

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Abstract

Objectives

We studied overall mortality in a demographically defined, complete cohort of gay men and lesbians to address recent claims of markedly shorter life spans among homosexual persons.

Methods

We calculated standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) starting 1 year after the date of same-sex marriage for 4914 men and 3419 women in Denmark who married a same-sex partner between 1989 and 2004.

Results

Mortality was markedly increased in the first decade after same-sex marriage for men who married between 1989 and 1995 (SMR = 2.25; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.01, 2.50), but much less so for men who married after 1995, when efficient HIV/AIDS therapies were available (SMR = 1.33; 95% CI = 1.04, 1.68). For women who married their same-sex partner between 1989 and 2004, mortality was 34% higher than was mortality in the general female population (SMR = 1.34; 95% CI = 1.09, 1.63). For women, and for men marrying after 1995, the significant excess mortality was limited to the period 1 to 3 years after the marriage.

Conclusions

Despite recent marked reduction in mortality among gay men, Danish men and women in same-sex marriages still have mortality rates that exceed those of the general population. The excess mortality is restricted to the first few years after a marriage, presumably reflecting preexisting illness at the time of marriage. Although further study is needed, the claims of drastically increased overall mortality in gay men and lesbians appear unjustified.

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