Category Archives: Lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender

Jun 22 2012

Same-Sex Marriage Policies Harm LGBT Health

By Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, PhD, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University. This post is part of a series on the RWJF Health & Society Scholars program, running in conjunction with the program’s tenth anniversary. The RWJF Health & Society Scholars program is designed to build the nation’s capacity for research, leadership and policy change to address the multiple determinants of population health. Hatzenbuehler is a member of the program’s 8th cohort.

Mark Hatzenbuehler

The topic of same-sex marriage in the United States was once again front and center in the public discourse several weeks ago when North Carolina joined 30 other states in banning same-sex marriage. The debates surrounding same-sex marriage policies have been waged on many grounds—moral, legal, religious, and economic. Conspicuously absent from this debate has been a discussion of whether same-sex marriage bans harm the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals.

In a New York Times article from May 11, Gary Pearce, a former advisor to Jim Hunt, a Democratic governor in North Carolina, explained that those who voted against same-sex marriage “genuinely and honestly believe it violates their fundamental religious beliefs.” He added, “They don’t really want to hurt people.”


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Sep 29 2011

Improving the Social Environment, and Lives, of Youth

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, PhD, last week participated in a Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) panel on bullying and suicide among youth. His topic: how these issues affect lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) teenagers, and how schools and communities can create more positive, supportive environments for youth.

Last spring Hatzenbuehler published a study in Pediatrics that found the social environment surrounding a young person has a significant impact on their risk for attempting suicide, regardless of their individual risk factors. Hatzenbuehler created an index, using five criteria that previous research had shown to be important to the LGB community, to assess each participating county’s level of supportiveness towards gays and lesbians. Based on data from the Oregon Healthy Teens Study, he found that in a negative environment an LGB youth’s likelihood of attempting suicide was 20 percent higher than it was in a supportive environment. Similarly, a heterosexual youth’s likelihood of attempting suicide was nine percent higher in a negative social environment than a positive one.

The CDC is in the process of developing a special issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health that outlines steps that policy-makers, teachers, health professionals and others can take to improve the lives of our nation’s youth. Hatzenbuehler’s article on anti-bullying policies and suicide attempts among LGB youth will be included in this special issue.

What do you think? What steps can health professionals, schools, policy-makers and other community members take to reduce bullying and youth suicide? Register below to leave a comment.