Survey reports increased LGBT health problems
We know that being queer can be stressful. However, there’s now a national study that documents increased LGBT health problems as compared to straight men and women– and it’s probably because of discrimination.
The National Health Interview Survey showed that lesbians, gays, and bisexual adults “were more likely to report impaired physical and mental health, heavy alcohol consumption, and heavy cigarette use potentially due to the stressors that (they) experience as a result of interpersonal and structural discrimination.”
In an online article in the JAMA Internal Medicine last June 28, researchers who conducted the survey presented the key points of their assessments.
This was the first time the survey– conducted by the US Census in 2013 and 2014– included a question about sexual orientation, the first time since its launch in 1957.
Higher LGBT health problems
Covering nearly 69,000 participants, the survey questioned 67,150 heterosexuals, 525 lesbians, 624 gays and 515 bisexuals– all with an average age of about 47.
The said survey noted that, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people were more likely than heterosexuals to report heavy drinking and smoking.
Likewise, lesbians were 91 percent more likely to report poor or fair health as compared to straight women.
Lesbians were 51 percent more likely to report multiple chronic conditions while bisexual women were more than twice as likely to report the same thing, as compared to heterosexual women.
The researchers also reported that gay men and bisexuals of both genders were more likely to report moderate-to-severe psychological distress.
The survey noted that about 17 percent of straight men had at least “moderate” psychological distress as compared to about 26 percent of gay men and about 40 percent of bisexual men.
Meanwhile, about 22 percent of straight women had at least “moderate” psychological distress. This is compared to about 28 percent for lesbian women and about 46 percent for bisexual women.
Reasons behind LGBT health problems
Though the study mirrors findings of earlier research, it doesn’t say why gay, lesbian and bisexual people face these higher health risks.
However, study author Gilbert Gonzales with the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville said the discrimination that lesbians, gays, and bi individuals face could cause stress and may be a contributing factor.
“Stigma and discrimination against the LGBT population can lead to lower levels of self-esteem and cause feelings of shame and rejection,” said Gonzales.
What’s more, Gonzales said bisexual individuals may have it worse as they may not be accepted in LGBT communities.
“While there aren’t that many studies focusing on bisexual adults, previous studies have indicated they’re probably at greater risk,” Gonzales said.
Other factors affecting LGBT health
The researchers noted that these results may be different now. Gonzales said respondents didn’t have the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage back thens.
Moreover, Dr. Mitchell Katz, an editor of the journal, said in a note published with the study that the health disparities between sexual minority populations and heterosexuals may have gone down with the growing acceptance of the former.
“Health care professionals can help by creating environments that are inclusive and supportive of sexual minority patients,” said Katz.
Meanwhile, Susan Cochran, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, warned that just because there is a greater risk of substance abuse and health problems for LGBT individuals doesn’t mean that they will suffer from them.
“Being gay, lesbian or bisexual doesn’t necessarily lead to this,” Cochran said.