Marriage good for mental health

Marriage good for mental health

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) has released a paper calling on the federal Government to legalise same-sex marriage.

In the paper, published in January in The Drug and Alcohol Review, NDARC said a review of research available shows gays and lesbians are two times more likely to develop a substance use disorder than their heterosexual counterparts.

“It would appear therefore that measures which reduce the stigma and discrimination against gay and lesbian people are likely to have powerful public health impacts,” the paper said.

“The absence of recognition of same-sex marriage is one important area of discrimination.

“It is now time to legalise gay marriage, as an important contribution to reducing alcohol and other drug harm in Australia.”

The paper quotes a number of studies, including a US study which found gay men were nearly twice as likely to have problems with drugs and alcohol than heterosexual men. In lesbians, researchers found the gap was greater, with 24 percent of heterosexual women found to have had a substance use disorder at some point in their lives, compared with 61 percent of lesbians.

NDARC’s paper said research also suggests that married people, on average, have better mental health, as well as advantages with increased financial and emotional supports.The paper quoted a US study which found that those in states where gay marriage was illegal showed increases in alcohol use disorders in gay and lesbian people, whereas states were gay marriage was legal showed no increases.

Brisbane-based Psychologists for Marriage Equality (PME) spokesman Paul Martin (pictured) welcomed NDARC’s support for change.

“Both the American and Australian psychological associations have issued statements highlighting the damage marriage discrimination does to the
mental health of same-sex attracted people,” Martin said.

“We see our job as taking that message to legislators and the public alike.” Melbourne psychologist and PME member Ben Callegari said it’s time Australia acted to change its laws opposing same-sex marriage.

“As psychologists we see the damage done by prejudice and discrimination on a daily basis,” Callegari said.

“We know from international studies that including gay and lesbian couples in such a core institution as marriage has a beneficial impact on quality of life and mental health.”

Last year the American Psychological Association and the Australian Psychological Society issued statements in support of marriage equality contributing to improvements in mental health for gay and lesbian people.The PME — which has a steering group of six psychologists from three Australian states — is planning to lobby MPs in Canberra for change in coming months.

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