Members of LGBTQ community continue to have worse health than peers, study finds

Despite social progress and respected medical groups publishing statements of support for members of the LGBTQ community throughout the last few years, health disparities for this group continue to exist.

"Lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the United States continue to have worse health and less access to healthcare than their heterosexual peers," researchers from Boston-based Harvard Medical School found in a newly published analysis.

Researchers set out to update findings from a 2013 study on lesbian, gay and bisexual health because "there have been substantial policy, legislative and sociocultural shifts that may have differentially affected sexual minority subgroups by recognizing the constitutional right to marriage equality, expanding state-level protections for LGB populations, and increasing public support for LGB-related issues" they wrote. 

However, what they found wasn't in line with the positive cultural and policy shifts that they expected to have effect.

An analysis of responses from lesbian, gay and bisexual adults regarding how healthcare has changed since 2013 "showed that gaps in health status and healthcare access between sexual minorities and their heterosexual counterparts did not improve from 2013 through 2018," a Feb. 20 Harvard Medical School press release stated. "Nearly all subgroups of LGB adults continued to report higher levels of poor or fair health status, functional limitation, severe psychological distress, and difficulties with healthcare affordability." 

On top of that, right now, 321 bills that want to slash rights for members of the LGBTQ community — including to some healthcare procedures — are actively being tracked in the 2023 legislative session by the American Civil Liberties Union. 

"When I look forward to becoming a physician, I want to make sure that all of my patients get the best possible healthcare and are able to live healthy lives," Sahil Sandhu, a co-author of the research and current medical student at Harvard, said in the press release. "For LGB people in America, that is not yet the case."

Among major medical groups, the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association all have statements supporting quality healthcare for members of the LGBTQ community and discouraging discrimination. 

Despite medical community and cultural support for LGBTQ individuals, Tiffany Najberg, DO, an openly transgender medical provider in Shreveport, La., told Becker's the findings from the Harvard study are, unfortunately, not surprising. 

"Many of the LGBT community live lives where daily harassment is a factor, and living in constant fear is severely deleterious to long-term health," she said. "There are so many different factors at play here … such as healthcare providers refusing to treat LGBT patients, that these findings in the Harvard paper are not surprising. It will take a concerted societal effort where many years of normalization, coupled by the same legal protection provided to other minorities, over time eliminate these things listed above."

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