Marriage, Gender and Health in Lesbian, Gay and Heterosexual Couples

Award Year:
Debra Umberson
Gender Studies, LGBT Health
Married heterosexuals enjoy greater health and longevity than the unmarried, and the importance of marriage for health increases as people age. However, since same sex couples cannot legally marry in most parts of the United States, we know very little about the health implications of marriage for aging gay and lesbian couples. Dr. Umberson examines how committed relationships affect health-related behavior and health care, and how those processes vary across gay, lesbian, and heterosexual unions. By comparing cohabiting and married couples, Dr. Umberson also explores how legal marriage differs from cohabitation in shaping relationship and health dynamics. This project will inform health policy involving when and how marriage and cohabitation influence health-related behavior, and how partner dynamics around health care at home and in formal health care settings vary for different union types. Policy strategies that result in more health-promoting behavior, more effective partner participation in health care, and more efficient use of health care systems have the potential to reduce health care costs, while improving the health and well-being of individuals and couples.