Same-Sex Marriage, General Health, and Health-Risk Behaviors in the U.S.
In the U.S., there are diverse views on marriage equality, and the question of whether legal status matters beyond legal rights is a legitimate one. Does marriage need to be a structurally integrated institution (i.e., a legal status with all rights and benefits) to provide intangible benefits, or can marriage as an ideological institution (i.e., an emotional state) provide the same experience? To broach this subject, I re-tested the models above using “self-defined marriage” – viewing one’s own relationship as a marriage, regardless of legal recognition. This measure grouped cohabitors who viewed their relationship as a marriage with legal marriages and partnerships. Self-defined marriage was also strongly associated with a marriage benefit; self-defined spouses were 47% less likely to be smokers than those who were single or just dating. I conclude that, although self-definition as a married person did reduce the likelihood of smoking, having a legally recognized relationship proved more beneficial in reducing health-risk behaviors.