Bisexual people were the worst affected by poor psychological health.Ryan Melaugh

LGBT people are two to three times more likely to suffer a chronic psychological problem, such as depression, a study by the University of Cambridge has revealed today.

The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, was developed with the Harvard Medical School and the RAND corporation, a policy think tank. It was based on a survey of 2 million people, of whom 27,000 identified as a sexual minority, making it the largest survey ever conducted of the LGBT community. 

It is understood that transgender people were among those surveyed, although no specific data on their quality of health was made available at the time of going to press.

Sexual minorities were two to three times more likely to suffer a chronic psychological problem, such as depression. Whilst only 5 percent of heterosexual men reported such a problem, it occurred within 11 percent and 15 percent of homosexual and bisexual men, respectively.

There was a similar pattern amongst women, as 12 percent of lesbians and 19 percent of bisexual women suffered a long-term psychological condition, compared to only 6 percent of heterosexual women.

General health was also of a lower quality amongst the LGBT community, with 22 percent of gay men and 26 percent of bisexual men reporting poor general health, alongside 25 percent and 31 percent of lesbians and bisexual women, respectively.

Heterosexual men and women displayed a better general standard of health, with only 20 percent of men and 21 percent of women classifying their health as poor.

Researchers suggested that members of the LGBT community were 50 percent more likely to feel a lack of trust and communication with doctors. Similarly, the study suggested that some had faced a hostile environment in which sexual minorities were stigmatised. This could lead to people postponing treatment, exacerbating pre-existing health conditions.

Professor Martin Roland, director of the Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research, said: "The survey shows that sexual minorities suffer both poorer health and have worse experiences when they see their GP. 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 reasons behind this apparent lack of trust are yet to be fully explored. Emily Ranken, an Education with English student at Homerton, suggested that the absence of LGBT issues from school sex education may be to blame; "LGBT-specific issues were never mentioned in my sex ed classes at school … this has psychological implications - by omitting to teach any kind of queer sexuality, LGBT teenagers are given the impression that their sexuality is less valid and less acceptable, or just something their teachers (and by extension those in authority) don’t quite know how to deal with."

"They have been taught that teachers, doctors, those in authority do not and will not understand any queer issues, however much nonsense that mind-set may actually be."

Jasmine Walter, a Philosophy student also studying at Homerton, agreed that a "preconceived misconception" may contribute to this reticence; "I might suggest that perhaps a significant part of the problem is due to personal paranoia, and not the fault of the medical practitioners ... perhaps I only say this because I'm in a very privileged position, and haven't ever really experienced serious hostility with regards to my sexuality."

 

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