Bed to Bathing: Women Experience Fewer Limitations with Daily Activities

University of Cincinnati sociology graduate student Russell Spiker is presenting his research at the 110th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association regarding how often various social groups experience activity limitations. 

Activity limitations are anything that prevents a person from doing things that are part of everyday life, such as needing assistance with bathing, going to bed or walking up stairs. The term also covers broader areas such as needing help with Activities of Daily Living (ADL), as well as issues that affect school or work performance. 

According to Spiker, a student in UC’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, this research is significant because medical professionals need a better understanding of how sexuality, gender and marital status affect health, and it make use of data from the National Health Interview Survey, which first collected sexuality data in 2013. 

Spiker uses the survey to compare the likelihood of activity limitations among those, aged 18 to 65, who are:

• cohabiting

• lesbian/gay partnered

• never married

• previously married

• previously married but now single

• straight married

When the research team — which includes Corinne Reczek, assistant professor of sociology, Ohio State University, and Hui Liu, associate professor of sociology, Michigan State University — compared activity limitations based on sexuality, marital status and gender, they discovered the following:

• Overall, women are less likely than men to report activity limitations, when accounting for demographic and economic factors. 

• Among women, straight cohabitating, straight single and lesbian/gay partnered women experienced higher odds of activity limitations than lesbian/gay single women or married women.

• Among men, all single men experienced higher odds of activity limitations.

• Among men with partners, straight cohabiting men and gay partnered men did not differ from married men.

“I hope that this research encourages people to look at health outcomes through a complex lens,” Spiker said. “There are so many factors going into health outcomes that it’s easy to want to reduce them to one factor.” 

Before Spiker’s study, titled “Activity Limitation Disparities by Sexuality, Gender, and Union Status,” there has been very little research on the distribution of activity limitations by sexuality. The Institutes of Medicine of the National Academy of Science have identified LGBTQ population health as a research priority.

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