Sunday, February 23, 2014
Does dislike of homosexuality give you heart attacks?
An academic study has just emerged which says that it does. "Homophobia is bad for your health" is the intended message. And the study itself is a refreshing piece of work that uses representative data, extensive controls, careful analysis and cautious wording. It is far better than most academic journal articles I read. So its conclusions should settle the matter?
Sadly, No. The study is a correlational one so warrants no conclusions about cause. Whether attitudes to homosexuals CAUSED the heart attacks or whether something associated with such attitudes caused the attacks is not known. And the authors acknowledged that. They suggest that certain health variables could be the "guilty" third factor.
And the elephant in the room there (I seem to be a master elephant detector) is of course IQ. Unless they are motivated by fundamentalist religious convictions, anybody who admits to anti-homosexual attitudes these days has to be either dumb or very brave. And bravery in the matter seems very rare. Homosexuals are sacred these days. And low IQ people do have worse health.
And the correlation between health and attitudes is weak anyway so other factors could very well be involved.
And there are some signs that all is not well with the results anyway. Both religiosity and conservatism showed negligible correlations with "antigay" attitudes -- where we would expect both of those to be strong predictors. So the conclusions of the study are very dubious indeed. I suspect that the underlying data was not robust enough to support the weight that the authors put on it.
The study is: Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, Anna Bellatorre, and Peter Muennig. "Anti-Gay Prejudice and All-Cause Mortality Among Heterosexuals in the United States". American Journal of Public Health: February 2014, Vol. 104, No. 2, pp. 332-337.
Despite its inconclusiveness, it will no doubt be quoted joyously and uncritically for many years to come. People who can believe that women and men are really the same will believe anything.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).