Civil partnerships help boost mental and physical health among homosexuals and lesbians, according to research.

British researchers highlight evidence that, among heterosexuals, individuals who are married have generally lower rates of depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide and are in better physical shape than single people.

They suggest that gay men and lesbians benefit from legal recognition. similarly benefit from legal recognition of their relationship, they suggest.

The research asserts that marriage encourages emotional stability for gay couples and also stops discriminatory access to medical treatment.

Professor Michael King, of University College London, who co-wrote the article, told the BBC: “Civil partnerships are likely to break down some of the prejudice and promote greater understanding, including among staff working in the health service.”

“Legal civil partnerships could increase the stability of same sex relationships and minimise the social exclusion to which gay and lesbian people are often subjected.”

The first civil partnership for same-sex couples was introduced by Denmark in 1989. Ten other members of the European Union, Argentina, Canada, Iceland and New Zealand have since introduced the law, as have several US states. South Africa’s parliament is in the process of enabling same-sex marriages.

Andy Forrest, of Stonewall gay rights group, said the report was “logical” but it would be too early to see if such an impact emerged in England and Wales.

“I think having civil partnerships is going to mean a lot more security, financially, without the need to seek legal recourse, which in turn means less stress and that will be beneficial.”

“There is also the issue of prejudice and hassle that people can encounter in their every day lives, with the rights these partnerships have this will be reduced.”

The paper appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, published by the British Medical Association.