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Understanding LGBT Health

Given that lesbians, gay men, bisexual women and men, and transgender people are in fact separate populations, it is important to note that most of the research on these populations has focused on lesbians and gay men. Much less research has been conducted on bisexual and transgender people. The committee therefore recommends research that focuses on all of these populations.

Understanding LGBT health starts with understanding the history of oppression and discrimination that these communities have faced. For example, in part because bars and clubs were often the only safe places where LGBT individuals could gather, alcohol abuse has been an ongoing problem.

Social determinants affecting the health of LGBT individuals largely relate to oppression and discrimination. Examples include:

  • Legal discrimination in access to employment, housing, marriage, adoption…
  • Lack of laws protecting against bullying in schools, at workplace and elsewhere
  • Lack of social programs targeted to and/or appropriate for LGBT youth, adults, and elders
  • Shortage of health care providers who are knowledgeable and culturally competent in LGBT health

The physical environment that contributes to healthy LGBT individuals includes:

  • Safe schools, neighborhoods, and housing
  • Access to recreational facilities and activities
  • Availability of safe meeting places
  • Access to health services

LGBT health requires specific attention from health care and public health professionals to address a number of disparities, including:

  • LGBT youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide.
  • LGBT youth are more likely to be homeless.
  • Gay men are at higher risk of HIV and other STD’s.
  • Transgender individuals have a high prevalence of HIV/STDs, victimization, mental health issues, and suicide.
  • Elderly LGBT individuals face additional barriers to health because of isolation and a lack of social services and culturally competent providers.
  • LGBT populations have the highest rates of tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use.

 


The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding

Editors

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health Issues and Research Gaps and Opportunities.

Source

Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011.
The National Academies Collection: Reports funded by National Institutes of Health.

Excerpt

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals experience unique health disparities. Although the acronym LGBT is used as an umbrella term, and the health needs of this community are often grouped together, each of these letters represents a distinct population with its own health concerns. Furthermore, among lesbians, gay men, bisexual men and women, and transgender people, there are subpopulations based on race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, geographic location, age, and other factors. Although a modest body of knowledge on LGBT health has been developed, these populations, stigmatized as sexual and gender minorities, have been the subject of relatively little health research. As a result, a number of questions arise: What is currently known about the health status of LGBT populations? Where do gaps in the research exist? What are the priorities for a research agenda to address these gaps? At the request of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Institute of Medicine convened a consensus committee to answer these questions. The 17-member Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health Issues and Research Gaps and Opportunities comprised experts in the fields of mental health, biostatistics, clinical medicine, adolescent health and development, ageing, parenting, behavioural sciences, HIV research, demography, racial and ethnic disparities, and health services. The committee was asked to conduct a review and prepare a report assessing the state of the science on the health status of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations; identify research gaps and opportunities; and outline a research agenda that will assist NIH in enhancing its research efforts in this area.

Copyright © 2011, National Academy of Sciences.

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