July 17, 2015
2 min read

What you should know about LGBT health care

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In June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, subsequently legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States. With this ruling, one of the rights awarded to same-sex spouses, along with their children, will be eligibility for health benefits through their spouse. 

“Today's decision by the Supreme Court that individuals in a same-sex relationship have a constitutional right to civil marriage is an historic step forward to the goal of ensuring equal access to health care for all Americans,” Wayne J. Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, MACP, American College of Physicians (ACP) President, said in a press release. "The denial of such [same sex marriage] rights can have a negative impact on the physical and mental health of these persons and contribute to ongoing stigma and discrimination for LGBT persons and their families.”

While this ruling is a step forward for equality in health care, disparities still exist. Recent research has indicated that many health care providers have bias toward lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals, although how this effects health outcomes is unclear. Many organizations have called for greater education and training regarding LGBT care, to better serve a diverse group of patients. 

Healio.com/Family Medicine presents four “fast facts” about the health issues facing LGBT patients. 

1. Young lesbian women less likely to receive HPV vaccination

Despite being at an elevated risk for cervical cancer morbidity and mortality, young lesbians are significantly less likely to initiate HPV vaccination compared with heterosexual and bisexual women, according to published data in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Among the participants, (n = 3,253) 28.4% of heterosexual women and 33.2% of bisexual women (P = .033) who had heard of HPV vaccine had initiated vaccination, compared with only 8.5% of lesbians (P = .007). Read more

2. Teens who disclose LGBT status have greater self-esteem, less depression

Adolescents who disclosed that they were gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender to their peers at school had greater self-esteem and less symptoms of depression during young adulthood, according to data published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. According to the results, teens who disclosed their sexuality at school incurred more victimization, but reported better young adult psychosocial adjustments. Read more

3. Transgender, cisgender sexual minorities have increased risk for eating disorders

Study findings in the Journal of Adolescent Health indicated young adults that identified as transgender or cisgender sexual minorities had increased risk for self-reported eating disorders. In an analysis of 289,024 students across U.S. universities, use of diet pills in the past month, self-induced vomiting and laxative use was highest among transgender students and lowest among cisgender heterosexual males. Read more

4. LGB older adults twice as likely to use mental health services vs. heterosexual peers

Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults aged 50 years and older were twice as likely to use mental health services compared with their heterosexual peers, according to study findings in Psychiatric Services in Advance. Results of the study demonstrated that LGB participants were significantly more likely to report excessive alcohol use (OR = 2.66; adjusted OR = 1.78) vs. heterosexual participants. Additionally, LGB adults were also more likely to report using psychiatric medication within the last year (OR = 1.77) vs. heterosexual adults, and this finding remained true when adjusting for sociodemographic variables (aOR = 2.04). Read more


Office of Human Resources at NIH. Same-sex spousal benefits. Available at:  http://hr.od.nih.gov/benefits/domesticpartner/domesticpartner.htm. Accessed July 17, 2015.