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Patient's Sexuality May Have Impact on Care

More lesbians than gay men say disclosure led to poorer treatment, survey finds

FRIDAY, July 28, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals react more positively to men who reveal they're gay than to women who disclose they're lesbians, concludes a New Zealand study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

The Massey University survey of 2,269 gay, lesbian and bisexual people also found that those over age 40 were more likely to report positive experiences when they revealed their sexuality to their primary health care providers.

"It's important that health care providers are aware of people's sexuality as non-disclosure has been shown to have a negative impact on their health," researcher Dr. Stephen Neville said in a prepared statement.

"For example, people who are lesbian, gay and bisexual are more likely to face an increased risk of suicide, depression and other mental health problems," Neville said.

Among the study's findings:

  • 83 percent of women and 66 percent of men said that their health care provider assumed they were heterosexual. This assumption was more likely if the patient was under age 40.
  • Women were more likely to disclose their sexuality than men (72 percent vs. 65 percent), as were people over age 40.
  • 86 percent of men and 78 percent of women said their health care provider was "completely comfortable" with their disclosure; 11 percent of women and six percent of men said their health care provider was "somewhat comfortable;" and 11 percent of women and eight percent of men said their health care provider ignored the disclosure.
  • 43 percent of men and 28 percent of women said they felt their health care provider's attitude to their disclosure had a positive effect on their care, compared to 10 percent of men and five percent of women who felt it had a negative effect.

"Previous studies have shown that people are more likely to seek health care and adhere to treatment regimes if they know that health care providers will be comfortable with their sexuality and not automatically assume they are heterosexual," Neville said.

More information

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association has more about gay and lesbian health issues.

SOURCE: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., news release, July 24, 2006
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