Survey finds excess health problems in lesbians, gays, bisexuals

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FDA to Lift Lifetime Ban on Blood Donations From Gay Men

(Reuters Health) - Gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals reported more health problems than straight men and women, in a large U.S. survey.

SEE ALSO: President Obama shares #LoveIsLove Pride message on Twitter

For the first time since its launch in 1957, the National Health Interview Survey in 2013 and 2014 included a question about sexual orientation.

With nearly 69,000 participants, the survey revealed that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults "were more likely to report impaired physical and mental health, heavy alcohol consumption, and heavy cigarette use, potentially due to the stressors that (they) experience as a result of interpersonal and structural discrimination," researchers wrote in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Related: FDA ends ban on gay blood:

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FDA ends ban on gay blood donors
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FDA ends ban on gay blood donors
The FDA lifting the gay/bisexual men ban on blood donors is great. But the deferral rule is a disgusting double standard.
This FDA statement is straight out of an evangelical fever dream: being gay isn't the sin, but being a well-adjusted adult who has sex is
@SladeHV being MSM is still the biggest risk factor for HIV, and is a key part of a behavioral screen.
@SladeHV the FDA didn't make up the idea that HIV incidence is approx. 30x higher among gay men than the whole population.
@SladeHV but there's no civil right to give blood, and the statement that someone has elevated risk factors for a disease is not an insult.
@jbarro half-true: it is not my right, but I can still be insulted and be made to less than
i'm sure a lot of gay men are going to abstain for a year just so they can give blood. that's totally a logical approach, fda, well done.
Dear @nytimes, Let’s be responsible tweeters. The FDA lift on gay men giving blood is ONLY for those who are celibate. #Homophobia reigns.
Exciting that I can now donate my gay blood just as long as I stop acting gay.
Sexual orientation has NOTHING to do with one’s ability to donate blood. NOTHING.
You can't have sex with your husband for year if you want to donate blood. #ridiculous #homophobic #DoesOralCount?
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Overall, 67,150 survey respondents were heterosexual, 525 lesbian, 624 gay and 515 bisexual. The average age was about 47.

Gilbert Gonzales of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville and colleagues found that compared to heterosexual women, lesbians were 91 percent more likely to report poor or fair health. Lesbians were 51 percent more likely, and bisexual women were more than twice as likely, to report multiple chronic conditions, compared to straight women.

Gay, lesbian and bisexual people were also more likely than heterosexuals to report heavy drinking and smoking.

While gays and lesbians reported worse psychological distress than heterosexuals, bisexual people suffered the most, the survey showed.

For example, about 17 percent of heterosexual men had at least moderate psychological distress, compared to about 26 percent of gay men and about 40 percent of bisexual men.

Similarly, about 22 percent of heterosexual women had at least moderate psychological distress, compared to about 28 percent of lesbian women and about 46 percent of bisexual women.

Gonzales told Reuters Health that the health disparities are likely due to the stress of being a minority, which is likely exacerbated among bisexual people, who may not be accepted by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

"While there aren't that many studies focusing on bisexual adults, previous studies have indicated they're probably at greater risk," he said.

Other factors too, along with so-called minority stress, may account for health differences between heterosexuals and lesbian, gay and bisexual people, Gonzales said.

For example, he said, survey respondents may not have had access to marriage, which wasn't legalized at the federal level in the U.S. until 2015.

"It will be interesting to see how legal same-sex marriage will affect these health disparities," Gonzales said.

In a note published with the study, Dr. Mitchell Katz says the disparities may decrease with the growing acceptance of sexual minority populations.

"Health care professionals can help by creating environments that are inclusive and supportive of sexual minority patients," writes Katz, who is an editor of the journal.

"In caring for people who have experienced bias and discrimination, support is a very potent medicine," he writes.

"It's important that all our federal surveys begin to collect sexual orientation status and gender identity," said Gonzales. "This kind of work would not be (possible) if the question wasn't asked."

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