Does Science Show Homosexuality is Healthy?

The view that homosexuality is not a mental illness but is a healthy lifestyle is often given as the basis for changing the traditional Christian stance on homosexuality. But does science really show that homosexuality is healthy? This article will consider the findings of science.

There is no absolute standard for judging what is normal or abnormal. But there are some common empirical criteria that are commonly used to decide whether a behaviour is healthy:

  • Emotional health
  • Psychological health
  • Physical health

Emotional Health

A major study by Bell and Weinberg revealed that 78% of male homo- sexual "affairs" (relationships entered into with an intent of commitment) lasted less than three years. Only 12% lasted five years or longer. Study by Alan P. Bell and Martin S. Weinberg, "Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women”, (New York, Simon and Shuster, 1978) p.314

Certainly, this shows a pattern of broken relationships that must be painful for many.

73% of the psychiatrists in the American Psychiatric Association who responded to a survey by Harold I. Lief said that they thought that homosexual men are less happy than others. 70% percent said they believed that the homosexuals' problems were due more to personal conflicts than to social stigmatization. Study by Harold I. Lief, Sexual Survey Number 4: Current Thinking on Homosexuality, Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality 2 (1977), pp.110- 111.

David McWhirter and Andrew Mattison conducted a non-random study of 156 stable committed male homosexual couples. They found that none of the over 100 couple that had been together for more than 5 years had been sexually monogamous or exclusive. The authors, themselves a gay couple, argued that for male couples, sexual monogamy is a passing stage of homophobia and that many homosexuals separate emotional fidelity and sexual exclusivity. What matters for male couples is emotional not physical faithfulness.D McWhirter and A Mattison, "The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop”, (Englewood Cliffs, Prentice-Hall).

Studies have shown that children of homosexual households are 2 to 4 times as likely to become homosexual themselves as compared to the general population. Timothy J. Daily, "Family Research Council: Insight: Homosexual Parenting: Placing Children at Risk”.

Psychological Health

In a national health care survey 75% of the nearly 2000 lesbian respondents reported they had pursued psychological counselling of some kind, many for treatment of long-term depression or sadness. J. Bradford et al., "National Lesbian Health Care Survey: Implications for Mental Health Care," Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 62 (1994): 239, cited in Health Implications Associated with Homosexuality, p. 81.

Homosexual men are 6 times more likely to have attempted suicide than are heterosexual men. Study by Bell and Weinberg, "Homosexualities…”, Table 21.12

Studies indicate that between 25 and 33% of homosexual men and women are alcoholics. Study by Robert J. Kus, "Alcoholics Anonymous and Gay American Men”, Journal of Homosexuality, Volume 14, No.2 (1987), p.254

Bell and Weinberg reported evidence of widespread sexual compulsion among homosexual men. 83% of the homosexual men surveyed estimated they had had sex with 50 or more partners in their lifetime, 43% estimated they had sex with 500 or more partners; 28% with 1,000 or more partners.Bell and Weinberg p 308

The same study revealed that homosexual men have to a great extent separated sexuality from relationship. The survey showed 79% of the respondents saying that over half of their sexual partners were strangers. Seventy percent said that over half of their sexual partners were people with whom they had sex only once. Bell and Weinberg pp.308-309. It should be noted that this survey was drawn from the San Francisco area at the height of the celebration by that gay community of its freedom from the restraints of "puritanical, middle-class values” and before the AIDS epidemic struck.

In their study of the sexual profiles of 2,583 older homosexuals published in Journal of Sex Research, Paul Van de Ven et al. found that "the modal range for number of sexual partners ever [of homosexuals] was 101–500." In addition, 10.2 percent to 15.7 percent had between 501 and 1000 partners. A further 10.2 percent to 15.7 percent reported having had more than 1000 lifetime sexual partners. Paul Van de Ven et al., "A Comparative Demographic and Sexual Profile of Older Homosexually Active Men," Journal of Sex Research 34 (1997): 354.

A survey conducted by the homosexual magazine Genre found that 24 percent of the respondents said they had had more than 100 sexual partners in their lifetime. The magazine noted that several respondents suggested including a category of those who had more than 1,000 sexual partners. "Sex Survey Results," Genre (October 1996), quoted in "Survey Finds 40 percent of Gay Men Have Had More Than 40 Sex Partners," Lambda Report, January 1998, p. 20.

Surely these are indications of either deep dissatisfaction, or else terribly destructive hedonism.

Physical Health

90% of lesbians surveyed had been recipients of one of more acts of verbal aggression from their partners during the year prior to the study, and 31% reported experiencing physical abuse (Lettie L. Lockhart et al., "Letting out the Secret: Violence in Lesbian Relationships," Journal of Interpersonal Violence 9 (1994): 469–492. ) and in another reference we see that "the incidence of domestic violence among gay men is nearly double that in the heterosexual population.” Gwat Yong Lie and Sabrina Gentlewarrier, "Intimate Violence in Lesbian Relationships: Discussion of Survey Findings and Practice Implications," Journal of Social Service Research 15 (1991): 41–59.

The Medical Institute for Sexual Health further reported: "It should be noted that most studies of family violence do not differentiate between married and unmarried partner status. Studies that do make these distinctions have found that marriage relationships tend to have the least intimate partner violence when compared to cohabiting or dating relationships.” Health Implications Associated With Homosexuality (Austin: The Medical Institute for Sexual Health, 1999), p. 79.

Lesbians are 3 times more likely to abuse alcohol and to suffer from other compulsive behaviours. Joanne Hall, "Lesbians Recovering from Alcoholic Problems: An Ethnographic Study of Health Care Expectations," Nursing Research 43 (1994): 238–244

A study of homosexual twins found that they are more likely to have attempted suicide than there heterosexual twin. R. Herrell et al., "A Co-twin Study in Adult Men," Archives of General Psychiatry 56 (1999): 867–874

The life expectancy for gay and bisexual men is 8 to 20 years less than for men in general. Robert S. Hogg et al., "Modeling the Impact of HIV Disease on Mortality in Gay and Bisexual Men," International Journal of Epidemiology 26 (1997): 657.

"A disproportionate percentage — 29 percent — of the adult children of homosexual parents had been specifically subjected to sexual molestation by that homosexual parent, compared to only 0.6 percent of adult children of heterosexual parents having reported sexual relations with their parent. … Having a homosexual parent(s) appears to increase the risk of incest with a parent by a factor of about 50.” P. Cameron and K. Cameron, "Homosexual Parents," Adolescence 31 (1996): 772

Conclusions

Scientific studies show there is a correlation between homosexuality and personal distress. There is clear evidence that many live unhealthy lifestyles. But not all homosexuals are distressed. Not all homosexuals experience personal distress nor can it be concluded that such distress is an inevitable part of the homosexual experience even if it is very common. Further there is effort to muddy the waters by hiding this kind of data. The mental health community, rather than reflecting the majority view, seems to have committed itself to revising the predominant public response, to normalizing behaviour that is rejected by the public.

It is comforting to share a common understanding with most of the people in society about what is good and bad behaviour, healthy and unhealthy patterns of living. However, we are heading into a time where more and more people disagree on what is a healthy person. An increasing number of the people and institutions around us have very different understandings about good & bad behaviour and healthy & unhealthy living.

We must also recognize that right and wrong are not always the same as healthy and unhealthy. Psychological abnormality and immorality are two different things although they sometimes overlap. Sometimes they are not related at all. Many conditions that are sins are not pathologies (idolatry, pride, sorcery, lust, fornication). Many conditions that are pathologies are not in themselves sins (anxiety, depression, psychosis).

Christians must recognize that neither society’s consensus or judgement of whether a behaviour is healthy has to match God’s view or the church’s moral judgement. New Testament Christians were clearly out of step with their society's understanding of what made a good character, a good person and a good life. Morality is not usually decided by democratic vote. By contemporary standards, a life consumed with greed, materialism, sensualism, selfishness, divorce and pride is judged healthy but God evaluates such a life and finds it lacking.