Since 2000, same-sex couples in California have been able to establish their relationship as registered domestic partnerships.
The new study, published online Dec. 13 in the American Journal of Public Health, used data from the 2009 California Health Interview Survey, which reached over 47,000 adults aged 70 and younger.
The respondents were asked whether they consider themselves to be straight, heterosexual, gay, lesbian, homosexual or bisexual. They were also asked how often in the last 30 days (on a scale of 0 to 4) they felt nervous, hopeless, restless or fidgety; so depressed that nothing could cheer them up; everything was an effort; and worthless.
Those who identified themselves as gay were also asked whether they were legally registered as a domestic partner or married in California with someone of the same sex. Heterosexuals were asked whether they were married, living with a partner in a marriage-like relationship, widowed, divorced, separated or never married. Factors such as gender, ethnicity, age, education, employment status, health insurance status, health and household income were accounted for to ensure they did not interfere with the study results.
The researchers found that psychological distress was lower among people in a legally recognized relationship, whether gay or straight.
Those in same-sex relationships that were legally recognized -- either as marriage or as a registered domestic partnership -- also revealed less psychological distress. Among heterosexuals, those who were married showed significantly less distress than did those who were not.
The study authors wrote that while they were unable to prove it with this study, they believe mental health may improve as gay people have access to relationships that provide higher degrees of social and legal recognition. Wight explained that'
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