Self-reported data from over 835,000 people in England suggest that lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) patients have poorer health outcomes compared to patients who identify as heterosexual.
Within the LGB community, bisexual people were found to disproportionally experience the worst health outcomes, indicating health inequalities in an already marginalised community.
Experts from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and Anglia Ruskin University, who led the study, suggest the disparities could result from unique prejudice and discrimination from mainstream society and LGBTQ+ communities.
The findings are published in The Journal of Sex Research and highlight the need for healthcare settings to provide services that better meet these specific health needs of marginalised patients within the LGB community.
Using data from the Ipsos MORI’s 2015/16 English General Practice Patient Survey (GPPS), which collects health data from approximately one per cent of the adult English population each year, the team examined data from 836,312 adults. Of these patients, 23,834 identified as LGB or ‘other’.
The researchers compared the health outcomes of people identifying as LBG with heterosexual groups through their self-reported quality of life, physical and mental health, and confidence in managing their own health. The data was adjusted to account for age, ethnic group, working status and socioeconomic status.
LGB groups across the genders were found to experience significantly worse quality of life compared to heterosexuals. Long-term physical and mental health problems were more than twice as likely to be reported for people within LGB groups compared to heterosexual groups. This was even greater for bisexual women, who were more than four times more likely to have long-term physical and mental health problems than heterosexual patients.
The researchers suggest that ‘minority stress’ can put bisexual individuals at increased risk of psychological problems and negative behaviours, leading to a greater risk of poorer health outcomes. The researchers also found that LGB patients felt less confident about managing thier health.
Lead author, Professor Carrie Llewellyn, from Brighton and Sussex medical school, said: ‘Our results suggest a greater prevalence of long-standing physical health conditions amongst people identifying as LGB. While it is well-established that persistent health disparities exist among LGB patients, very little is known about the specific experiences of bisexual people. Our study goes some way to addressing this gap – finding that bisexual people, especially women, have the worst experiences in healthcare and the worst health outcomes of any sexuality.’
The researchers suggest that health interventions directed at the LGB community may neglect subgroups of this community, resulting in further marginalisation.
Professor Llewellyn added: ‘A better understanding of the different spectrum of health needs across LGBTQ+ subpopulations is required to provide adequate and equitable healthcare services for all. Modification of healthcare settings to increase perceived accessibility and providing services that better meet these specific health needs are essential.’