Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health

LGBT individuals encompass all races and ethnicities, religions, and social classes. Sexual orientation and gender identity questions are not asked on most national or State surveys, making it difficult to estimate the number of LGBT individuals and their health needs.

Research suggests that LGBT individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of their civil and human rights. Discrimination against LGBT persons has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide. Experiences of violence and victimization are frequent for LGBT individuals and have long-lasting effects on the individual and the community. Personal, family, and social acceptance of sexual orientation and gender identity affects the mental health and personal safety of LGBT individuals.

The LGBT companion document to Healthy People 2010 highlighted the need for more research to document, understand, and address the environmental factors that contribute to health disparities in the LGBT community. As part of this work, we need to increase the number of nationally representative health-related surveys that collect information on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). 

At the beginning of the decade, the following 6 national data systems collected sexual orientation data:

  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS)
  • National Health and Nutrition and Examination Survey (NHANES)
  • National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG)
  • Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)
  • National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)
  • American Community Survey (ACS)

Since the beginning of the decade, 2 additional national surveys have begun collecting sexual orientation data:

  • National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)
  • National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)

Why Is LGBT Health Important?

Eliminating LGBT health disparities and enhancing efforts to improve LGBT health are necessary to ensure that LGBT individuals can lead long, healthy lives. The many benefits of addressing health concerns and reducing disparities include:

  • Reductions in disease transmission and progression
  • Increased mental and physical well-being
  • Reduced health care costs
  • Increased longevity

Efforts to improve LGBT health include:

  • Collecting SOGI data in health-related surveys and health records in order to identify LGBT health disparities
  • Appropriately inquiring about and being supportive of a patient's sexual orientation and gender identity to enhance the patient-provider interaction and regular use of care
  • Providing medical students with training to increase provision of culturally competent care
  • Implementing antibullying policies in schools
  • Providing supportive social services to reduce suicide and homelessness among youth
  • Curbing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with interventions that work