The Longevity of Homosexuals: Before and After the AIDS Epidemic

Authors: Paul Cameron, William L Playfair, and Stephen Wellum

Summary: Although the U.S. Surgeon General characterized homosexual sex as “normal” and “healthy,” homosexuals and IV drug abusers have suffered disproportionately from the AIDS epidemic. Longevity is often utilized as a measure of health. How long did homosexuals live before the AIDS epidemic and how long do they live today? We examined 6,737 obituaries/death notices from eighteen U.S. homosexual journals over the past thirteen years and compared them to obituaries from two conventional newspapers. The obituaries from the non-homosexual newspapers were similar to U.S. averages for longevity: the median age of death of married men was seventy-five, 80 percent died old (65 or older); for unmarried men it was fifty-seven, 32 percent died old; for married women it was seventy-nine, 85 percent died old; for unmarried women it was seventy-one, 60 percent died old. For the 6,574 homosexual deaths, the median age of death if AIDS was the cause was thirty-nine irrespective of whether or not the individual had a Long Time Sexual Partner [LTSP], 1 percent died old. For those 829 who died of non-AIDS causes the median age of death was forty-two (41 for those 315 with a LTSP and 43 for those 514 without) and <9 percent died old. Homosexuals more frequently met a violent end from accidental death, traffic death, suicide, and murder than men in general. The 163 lesbians registered a median age of death of forty-four (20% died old) and exhibited high rates of violent death and cancer as compared to women in general. Old homosexuals appear to have been proportionately less numerous than their non-homosexual counterparts in the scientific literature from 1858 to 1993. The pattern of early death evident in the homosexual obituaries is consistent with the pattern exhibited in the published surveys of homosexuals and intravenous drug abusers. Homosexuals may have experienced a short lifespan for the last 140 years; AIDS has apparently reduced it about 10 percent. Such an abbreviated lifespan puts the healthfulness of homosexuality in question. Reference: Cameron P, Playfair WL, & Wellum S (1994) The longevity of homosexuals: before and after the AIDS epidemic. Omega Journal of Death and Dying, 29(3): 249-272.