Physical Illness in Gay, Lesbian, and Heterosexual Marriages: Gendered Dyadic Experiences.

Academic Article


  • The inclusion of same-sex married couples can illuminate and challenge assumptions about gender that are routinely taken for granted in studies of physical illness. We analyze gender dynamics in gay, lesbian, and heterosexual marriages with in-depth interview data from 90 spouses (45 couples) to consider how spouses co-construct illness experiences in ways that shape relationship dynamics. Overall, findings indicate that men tend to downplay illness and thus provide minimal care work, whereas women tend to construct illness as immersive and involving intensive care work-in both same-sex and different-sex marriages. Yet same-sex spouses describe similar constructions of illness much more so than different-sex couples, and as such, same-sex spouses describe less illness-related disagreement and stress. These findings help inform policies to support the health of gay and lesbian, as well as heterosexual, patients and their spouses, an important goal given health disparities of gay and lesbian populations.
  • Published In


  • care work, gender, illness constructions, marriage, same-sex relationships, Adult, Female, Gender Identity, Heterosexuality, Homosexuality, Female, Homosexuality, Male, Humans, Illness Behavior, Male, Marriage, Middle Aged, Sexual and Gender Minorities, Spouses
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Umberson D; Thomeer MB; Reczek C; Donnelly R
  • Start Page

  • 517
  • End Page

  • 531
  • Volume

  • 57
  • Issue

  • 4