William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Researchers Claim Gays Who Face Prejudice Live Shorter Lives

Bill Shatner is a big bully

Bill Shatner is a big bully

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.

13 Comments

  1. So much science. So much peer review. So much trick.

    – Doge

  2. charles the moderator

    February 19, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    A negative response to “4” would iply that same sex rape is never wrong.

  3. As Charles noted, I had to do a double (and triple) take on that fourth question. Am I considered heterophobic if I ever oppose heterosexual relations?

    But then, I am but a humble computer scientist who cannot comprehend the great Magics of modern psychology.

  4. Don’t give up. The question isn’t whether to fight* but how.

    * I’m not sure that fight is the right verb. Perhaps resist.

  5. Yeah, but what was the p-value?

  6. There is tons of research “out there” about how stress, including prejudice, adversely affects health, longevity, etc.–and that from many disciplines. That someone endeavored to narrow the focus of such to a particular, currently celebrity, victim group (gays) is itself telling.

    Sure, prejudice can [via a variety of well-known mechanisms] shorten life…nothing new there….so why bother?

    Because this “study” has an ulterior motive that’s hardly surprising considering its coming from the fringe of the liberal Left; it shows that gays are, again, victimized in yet another way. And shame on all the non-gays that are prejudiced because this form of victimization is their fault.

    That is scapegoating. That is also a demand for one to change one’s personal views, feelings and values to accommodate another group.

    Note there’s no mention of any coping mechanisms or techniques, or even an acknowledgment that some in this persecuted sub-group might have such. It is well known that social support systems and other coping techniques can offset external social pressures — but that such might work for the gay victim group isn’t even acknowledged.

    Without much real analysis of context one readily observes this “study” for what it is–a bit of clumsy political propaganda. There’s no reason to offer it the time of day to analyze the merits of its underlying analytical techniques because those do not matter to the authors, only the final conclusion matters and any “rationale” that gets to the “right” answer is good enough. This paper is just one more “brick” in a larger social deconstruction/reconstruction by the liberal left.

    That, by the way, is also how eugenics prospered for a time…

  7. Briggs

    February 19, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Ken,

    Let’s agree that “stress” can injure. But in this case, we don’t know squat about how much “stress” any person received, “sexual minority” or not. And it is grossly irresponsible of the authors to imply that they do know how much.

    Confirmation bias always happens to the other guy.

  8. Ye Olde Statisician

    February 19, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    You, you, science-denier, you.

  9. You mean gay-science denier. Apologies to Nietzsche.

  10. Fletcher Christian

    February 20, 2014 at 5:24 am

    Could I please issue an appeal against the use of the word “gay” referring to homosexuals? It is not necessary to use the alternative words/phrases “poofter”, “faggot”, “queer”, “backdoor bandit”, “dyke”, or “carpet muncher”. The simple and accurate word “homosexual” will suffice.

  11. It seems many of them go around looking to be offended at all cost, that’s self-abuse. At any rate, if you are doomed to live a shorter life, stop wasting time whining and make the best of your short time.

  12. So-called social scientists are most of
    them mere touts for contemporary PC insanity.

    To maintain that male homosexuals die young
    because heterosexuals are unkind to them makes no
    more sense than to maintain that junkies look
    wasted because people who refrain from shooting up
    heroin give them a cold shoulder.

    Male homosexuals go to an early grave because they
    consume lots of powerful, destructive drugs for
    fun, and because they have lots of raw anal
    sex with multitudes of partners.

    For my part, I’ve no objection to adults using drugs
    for fun and having sex can kill them. But I’m disinclined
    to give a hoot over the suffering they bring upon
    themselves and or to cry crocodile tears over their
    passing.

    And since I’m not insane, I reject any imputation
    that I’m somehow responsible for their short,
    brutish lives.

  13. (REVISED FOR TYPOS)

    So-called social scientists are most of
    them mere touts for contemporary PC insanity.

    To maintain that male homosexuals die young
    because heterosexuals are unkind to them makes no
    more sense than to maintain that junkies look
    wasted because people who refrain from shooting up
    heroin give them a cold shoulder.

    Male homosexuals go to an early grave because they
    consume lots of powerful, destructive drugs for
    fun, and because they have lots of raw anal
    sex with multitudes of partners.

    For my part, I’ve no objection to adults using drugs
    for fun and having sex that can kill them. But I’m
    disinclined to give a hoot over the suffering they
    bring upon themselves or to cry crocodile tears over
    their passing.

    And since I’m not insane, I reject any imputation
    that I, while wanting little or nothing to do with
    most homosexuals but practicing toward them live and
    let live, am somehow responsible for their short,
    brutish lives.

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