Same-Sex Partnerships and the Health of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Older Adults
Williams, Mark Edward
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While extensive research has examined associations between marriage, cohabitation and the health of heterosexual adults, it remains unclear whether similar patterns of health are associated with the same-sex partnerships for older adults. The following papers examine how having a same-sex partner may be related to general self-reported health, mental health, and satisfaction with life for older adults. Analyzing survey data collected from lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adults 50 years of age and older, the first paper reports findings that those with same-sex partners have significantly better self-reported health, fewer depressive symptoms, less perceived stress, and greater life satisfaction, controlling for gender, age, education, income, sexuality, and relationship duration. Relationship duration did not significantly impact the association between partnership status and health, nor did gender. The importance of culturally sensitive clinical practice and policies that recognize the role that same-sex partnerships may play in older adult health are discussed along with implications for future research. The second paper further examines how identifying as married is associated with significantly fewer depressive symptoms and greater life satisfaction compared to those identifying as unmarried partners, but not significantly less perceived stress. Social integration, as reflected in increasing access to and identification with marriage by LGB older adults, is an important area for future research to examine in order to study how changing social acceptance of sexual minorities may impact older adult health. The final paper reviews the theoretical frameworks that have been employed to study lesbian, gay, and bisexual older adult health. Social determinants of health models are contrasted with social constructionist and post-structural critiques of gender, sexuality, age and health. Future research needs to envision both structural sources of health disparities as well as account for individual agency and the resilient subject as important elements for theorizing the source and meaning of health disparities for lesbian, gay and bisexual older adults.
- Social welfare