The Daily Mail reported it like this: “Gay people who face regular homophobic abuse have a shorter life expectancy than those who live in more tolerant communities.”
Homophobic abuse, they say. “The study is the first to look at the consequences of anti-gay prejudice on death rates.”
Leaving aside there are no clear or agreed upon definitions of “anti-gay” or “homophobia”, the “study” is the peer-reviewed “Structural stigma and all-cause mortality in sexual minority populations” in the journal Social Science & Medicine by Mark Hatzenbuehler and a slew of others.
Hatz (if I may call him that) looked back into the General Social Survey (asked of different people over time) at the question which wondered whether a person had sexual relations with a member of the same sex; if so, then Hatz labeled the person a “sexual minority.” Not all people answered this question or answered consistently.
This inconsistently bothered Hatz not at all. Nor did the plentiful missing data, which Hata made up, i.e. “imputed”; and then ignored the uncertainty introduced in the imputation (which, in his favor, almost nobody does).
What about the “structural stigma” and “anti-gay prejudice”? Defined as a positive response to any of these questions:
(1) “If some people in your community suggested that a book in favor of homosexuality should be taken out of your public library, would you favor removing this book, or not?” (2) “Should a man who admits that he is a homosexual be allowed to teach in a college or university, or not?” (3) “Suppose a man who admits that he is a homosexual wanted to make a speech in your community. Should he be allowed to speak, or not?” (4) “Do you think that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex is always wrong, almost always wrong, wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all?”
A positive response for (4) was any answer but “not wrong at all.” How did Hatz control for the completely different nature of questions (1)-(3) and (4)? Shhh. One can be for free speech and still believe man-on-man sex perverted.
Next came the magic—I mean the trick. The “anti-gay” measure was averaged across people who lived in the GSS’s “primary sampling units” (PSUs), which are cities or—God help us—“‘life space[s]’ where individuals live, work, and play.” Then that average was assigned to each “sexual minority” who lived in the PSU.
Now a critic might say averaging these questions across “life spaces” has nothing to do with the health of men who want to have sex with other men (and likewise for women), especially as (it will turn out) Hatz admits that HIV/AIDS might account for the results. That critic would be right. But that critic would not find a job in a university as a “researcher”.
To make it interesting and to introduce a fun confirmation bias, Hatz “limited [his] sample to all persons residing in PSUs with at least one sexual minority individual”. This left 20,001 individuals, 914 of whom were classed as “sexual minorities.” Half of these folks were male. There were about 170 PSUs.
The outcome was all-cause mortality. “Of the 914 sexual minorities in our sample, 134 (14.66%) were dead by 2008.” And the ones living in PSUs which had high averages of the “anti-gay” questions died slightly sooner than those who lived in areas with low averages of the “anti-gay” questions.
Of the 20,001 non-minorities, Hatz says nothing. But, hey, who cares, right? I mean, it could be that non-sexual “minorities” died at the same or higher rates and in the same places of high average “anti-gay” whatsits, but what possible interest to us could that be? And what about the people who moved from one PSU to another during the study? Or what about the people who only lived in a PSU for days and not years? And what of the curiosity that all people (not just “sexual minorities”) had “rates of cancer were slightly higher in low-stigma compared to high-stigma communities”?
And what about the…
¡Ya basta! I can’t do it. I’m done. Fed up. Filled up. This study is crap. I’m sorry for the vulgar language, but the paper is a rotten stinklog in a long line of festering stinklogs flowing from academia heralded as “discoveries.” Day after day I take apart these, these, these “papers”—papers forsooth!—and each day there are a dozen new ones demanding evisceration. I can’t keep up. Nobody could.
I’m sorry it had to be Hatz et alia that I’m taking this out on; but it had to be somebody. This one was just one too many.
I despair, I despair.
Update Gee, I must have done a good job taking this one apart. Or are the politics too frightening for us?
Thanks, I suppose, to reader kunzipjn who brought this paper to our attention.