If you are gay, lesbian or bi, research suggests you are more likely to be in worse physical and mental health than straights.
By: John Hollywood
New research appearing in JAMA Internal Medicine seems to indicate that if you are gay, lesbian or bi, there’s a good chance your health, both physically and mentally, is not so great when compared to heterosexuals.
As a group, we are more likely to drink and smoke (often heavily) due to chronic stress, which the study appears to indicate.
Why might this be?
Here is what one of the researchers stated:
“Findings from our study indicate that LGB adults experience significant health disparities — particularly in mental health and substance use — likely due to the minority stress that LGB adults experience as a result of their exposure to both interpersonal and structural discrimination,” investigators led by Gilbert Gonzales, PhD, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, write.
Bisexual people in particular are at the most risk for psychological distress; something researchers feel may be because bisexual individuals are marginalized within the wider community and also within the LGBTQ spectrum.
The researchers add:
“Combined with the relative scarcity of bisexual communities and organizations, this ostracizing may lead to social isolation, a risk factor for psychological distress.”
Alcohol and Tobacco Use
We looked closely at JAMA’s findings and the findings suggest that gay men in particular reported more distress as a result of alcohol use and smoking when compared to heterosexual men. Does this mean this mean that stress and anxiety impact gay men more?
That’s hard to know.
But the research does suggest that as a coping tool, many gay men turn to alcohol and cigarettes
And the findings of this study also indicate that bisexual guys are much more likely to report moderate or severe levels of mental distress when compared to their male heterosexual counterparts. Like gay men, they were also much more likely to be heavy drinkers and smokers.
Lesbians appear to be at an elevated risk of reporting they had poor or only fair health and struggling with a variety of chronic health issues.
Lesbians were also more likely to have moderate psychological distress, and heavier drinking and moderate to heavy smoking when compared to heterosexual females.
The deputy editor or JAMA Internal Medicine, Dr. Mitchell Katz, added the following words of agreement with the researchers in an editorial he penned.
“There is reason to anticipate that with the growing acceptance of sexual minority populations, as evidenced by the rapid increase in the establishment of same-sex marriage in the Unites States and other countries, these disparities will decrease.”
Dr Katz urges healthcare professionals to help the gay, lesbian and bisexual community by offering a supportive environment.
“The important thing is to ask open-ended questions that do not prejudge responses,” he shares. For example, doctors might ask a new patient about their sexual orientation or if they partake in sex with men, women or both.
“Whatever the answer, following up by asking if the patient has a special partner shows interest and willingness to discuss intimate issues,” Dr Katz adds. “In caring for people who have experienced bias and discrimination, support is a very potent medicine.”