Mortality among men and women in same-sex marriage: a national cohort study of 8333 Danes

Am J Public Health. 2009 Jan;99(1):133-7. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.133801. Epub 2008 Nov 13.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Homosexuality, Female / statistics & numerical data*
  • Homosexuality, Male / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy / trends*
  • Male
  • Marriage / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult