Gay people at higher risk of mental health issues and bad GP experiences

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Gays, bisexuals and lesbians are more at risk of having long-term mental health issues and twice as likely to encounter bad experiences with their GP.

Cambridge University researchers have done one of the largest surveys of homosexuals in Britain. During this survey, it was discovered that 19% of bisexual and 12% of lesbian women suffered with mental health problems, compared to 6% of heterosexual females.

Around 15% of bisexual and 11% of gay males have reported problems, compared to 5% of heterosexual males.

The study indicated that bisexual, gay and lesbian males and females were 50% more likely to have negative experiences with primary care services, compared to heterosexuals.

The director of the Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research, Professor Martin Roland, did the research, which was partly funded by the NHS, with academics based at the Harvard Medical School and Rand Corporation. He said that the survey indicates that sexual minorities suffer poorer health and have worse experiences when they consult their GP.

He said that there is the need to ensure that doctors are able to recognise the needs of sexual minorities, and that they receive the same level of care as other patients.

The study was based on two million responses to the 2009-10 English General Practice Patient Survey, which included answers from more than 27000 patients who listed themselves as bisexual, gay or lesbian. This survey has been described as one of the largest of its kind.

The study revealed that poor health which was reported by sexual minorities could be attributed to stressful social and possibly hostile environments which are created by prejudice, discrimination and stigma that they have to face.

The head of policy at Stonewall, the LGBT charity, James Taylor, said this study indicates how bisexual, lesbian and gay people receive inferior mental health care, as well as bad experiences when gaining access to primary care, than heterosexuals. He said it is critical that sexual minorities gain access to high quality healthcare which is free from discrimination and that action should be taken to improve their health.

The study from Cambridge University comes at the same time as a report released by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and London Metropolitan University, indicating that LGBT services are feeling the effects of austerity.

The general secretary of TUC, Frances O’Grady, said LGBT services were already operating on a shoestring budget where they currently receive only 4p in every £100 of income from the voluntary sector. A small minority remains optimistic that this will improve in future.

The Labour shadow Public Health Minister, Luciana Berger, said the governments needs to make sure that the NHS is a LGBT-friendly organisation. She said staff should obtain training in the particular health needs of this sector. It should be ensured that LGBT people have the confidence to access the required services and be able to communicate comfortably with professionals regarding their health, and receive the highest level of care.

Image Credit: Guillaume Paumier

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