Gay people more likely to have mental health problems, survey says

Bisexuals are the worst-affected group

Lesbians, gays and bisexuals are more likely to have long-standing mental health problems and are twice as likely to have had bad experiences with their GP.

In one of the biggest surveys of homosexuals in England, researchers from Cambridge University found that 12 per cent of lesbian women and almost 19 per cent of bisexual women reported mental health problems, compared with six per cent of heterosexual women.

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Meanwhile 11 per cent of gay men and 15 per cent of bisexual men reported problems, compared to five per cent of heterosexual men.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual men and women were 50 per cent more likely than heterosexuals to report negative experiences with primary care services, according to the study which was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

“The survey shows that sexual minorities suffer both poorer health and have worse experiences when they see their GP,” said Professor Martin Roland, director of the Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research, who carried out the partly NHS-funded research with academics from the Rand Corporation and the Harvard Medical School.

“We need to ensure both that doctors recognise the needs of sexual minorities, and also that sexual minorities have the same experience of care as other patients.”

The researchers used more than two million responses to the 2009-10 English General Practice Patient Survey to create the study. These responses included more than 27,000 from patients who described themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, making it one of the largest surveys of its kind.

It also found that poor health reported “by sexual minorities may in part be due to potentially hostile and stressful social environments created by the stigma, prejudice and discrimination that they face”.

“This research demonstrates how lesbian, gay and bisexual people continue to experience poorer mental health and poorer experiences when accessing primary care than their heterosexual counterparts,” said James Taylor, head of policy at Stonewall, the LGBT charity. “It is vital that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are able to access high quality healthcare free from discrimination and action is taken to improve their health.”

The Cambridge University study came at the same time as a report from the Trade Union Congress and London Metropolitan University showed LGBT services are “suffering as a result of austerity”.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said “LGBT services were already coping on a shoestring, receiving just 4p in every £100 of voluntary sector income. Some LGBT service providers now say they’re barely ‘staying alive’ and only a minority are optimistic that their future situation will improve.”

Luciana Berger MP, Labour’s shadow Public Health Minister, said: “The Government needs to do more to ensure that our NHS is an LGBT-friendly environment. Staff must receive training in the specific health needs of LGBT people. And we must ensure that LGBT people not only have confidence to access services and speak to professionals about their health, but that they then receive the high quality care that they need.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "All patients deserve high quality care from their GP, regardless of their sexual orientation.”