Examining Partnership and Health in Multiple Samples of Gay and Bisexual Men
Du Bois, Steve N.
MetadataShow full item record
Compared to single heterosexuals, partnered heterosexuals tend to show greater physiological, psychological, and behavioral health benefits. We conducted three studies to examine if these partnership benefits extended to gay and bisexual men, who as a group are vulnerable to aversive health outcomes. Study One tested the Stress-buffering hypothesis among HIV positive men (n=312). Stress-buffering proposes individuals facing multiple stressors, e.g. being gay/bisexual and having HIV, will cope better if they have a high quantity or quality of social support. We hypothesized partnered men would be healthier across several indices than would single men, and that emotional and instrumental support would mediate the partnership–health relation. Results did not support the general hypothesis, although partnered men used hard drugs less than single men, and trended toward reporting higher emotional and instrumental support. Study Two used a sample of young gay and bisexual men (n=354) to compare the health of single and partnered young men; and to test the Social Strain hypothesis. Social Strain states stressful relationships can lead to negative health outcomes. We hypothesized that partnered young men would be healthier than single ones, and that lower relationship satisfaction scores would be associated with individual health decrements. Men whose most recent anal intercourse partner was serious were more likely to have risky sex than men whose most recent partner was casual. We found no other group differences in health. Relationship satisfaction inversely related to depression and anxiety, and positively related to binge drinking. Study Three used longitudinal data from a sample of behaviorally risky gay and bisexual men (n=1,542) to compare single and partnered men on various health indices; and to test the Selection versus Protection hypotheses. Selection proposes that individuals are selected into partnerships because they are healthy, whereas Protection proposes that being partnered itself leads to individual health increases. Partnered men used hard drugs less, but engaged in unprotected sex more, than did single men. We found little support for both Protection —men reported decreases in depression, but increases in anxiety and sexual risk, as they entered partnerships; and Selection – only increases in anxiety and sexual risk predicted entering partnerships. Across studies, we found very limited support for our primary hypothesis that partnership related to comprehensive health benefits among gay and bisexual men. Two specific partnership benefits were replicated across studies: less depression and less drug use. Simultaneously, sexual risk prevalence was higher among partnered men in two of three studies. Potential explanations for our findings, study limitations, and suggestions for future research are discussed.
gay and bisexual men