Social Determinants of Health Among Women Part of the LGBT Community

At least 2 million people worldwide identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual or queer. Moreover, a 2003 Health Canada survey indicated that within individuals aged 18-59, 28% of homosexuals and bisexuals claimed they had at least one healthcare need that has gone unmet, double the percentage of heterosexuals (Armstrong & Deadman, 2009). As these statistics state, 560 000 individuals in the LGBT community have a healthcare issue that is not being taken care of, due to factors that will be discussed in this paper.

Armstrong and Deadman (2009) identify four challenges that women of these groups face: the tendency for researchers to group lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals into one group called the LGBT community; the lack of Canadian research on health issues pertaining to this community, namely the women in these groups; the difficulty researchers have when recruiting sample populations due to possible humiliation of disclosing membership; and the lack of professional education programs within institutions and organizations which properly train staff and give them insight on the LGBT community (Armstrong & Deadman, 2009).

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Members of the LGBT community face many biases and social stigmas throughout their life, including the association of homosexuality and HIV/AIDS. Although HIV/AIDS continues to be popularly believed to be the only health concern within the LGBT community, lesbians prove to have significantly lower rates than heterosexual women (Armstrong & Deadman, 2009). On the contrary, it is mental health issues such as stress, discrimination and threat of violence that are the most prevalent within these groups.

Members of the LGBT community have the highest reported rates of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and substance use. These issues are related to the stress and oppression that homosexual women face due to the environmental and societal responses to their sexual orientation, not innate psychological characteristics (Oswalt & Wyatt, 2011). Depression and anxiety is linked to the following factors: rejection by family members, social stigma, abuse and violence, unfair treatment in the egal system, having to hide a big part of your life, lack of health insurance (Kubik, 2012, Module 1E, 3). There is also evidence that shows that women part of the LGBT community are twice as likely to smoke and consume more alcohol at higher levels than heterosexual women (Armstrong & Deadman, 2009). In a 2001 study on the relationship between mental health issues impacting academic performance and sexual orientation among 27 454 college students, it was found that members of the LGBT community consistently reported higher levels of mental health issues than those of the heterosexual community.

Heterosexuals generally reported not experiencing anxiety, physical or sexual assault, depression, discrimination, relationship difficulties, roommate difficulties or stress (Oswalt & Wyatt, 2011). Violence, abuse or the threat of either of these is a dominant stressor among the LGBT community. There is an increasing awareness of this issue; however women of these groups are more likely to keep to themselves and not seek help from those around them, including family, friends, the medical system or social programs (Kubik, 2012, Module 1E, 6).

Violence and abuse is an issue that increases significantly when social factors such as poverty, homelessness or being part of a racial minority group are of noted (Armstrong & Deadman, 2009). As noted by Tera Beaber and Paul Werner (2009), the high prevalence of a mental health issues in the LGBT community is due to the minority stress model, which conceptualizes internalized homophobia, stigma and discrimination as causations of stress.

The researcher’s current study proved no significant differences in the levels of anxiety within homosexual and heterosexual women, however they note that previous results from various studies indicating there is a significant difference must be analyzed with the social context of the sample population in mind (Beaber & Werner, 2009). This could be due to other factors such as socio-cultural or economic. It is important to note that women of the LGBT community face issues when attempting to receive adequate healthcare that heterosexual women do not.

They may feel reluctant to disclose information about their sexual lifestyle due to the social stigma associated to lesbians. These women may even receive a different demeanor or attitude from their healthcare provider after disclosing this personal information, and the healthcare provider may not ask for pertinent information regarding their sex life. Many women from these groups completely avoid reproductive health issues as they do not believe it is necessary due to their lifestyle. Discussion In order to improve the status of a homosexual women’s health, there are several approaches and policies that must be put in place.

One elimination we must make is the social stigma that comes with claiming homosexuality, followed by the acknowledgement of the LGBT community by the healthcare system. Professionals in organizations and institutions must be properly trained to be open and considerate to members of the LGBT community, and reminded or taught that discrimination plays a key role in a person’s overall health and well-being. In order for homosexuals to feel safe and confident while disclosing information to a medical professional, they must feel that the professional does not hold a previous bias against them.

Armstrong and Deadman (2009) state that public health campaigns advancing from biased heterosexual issues to information specifically catered toward the LGBT community and their specific issues would greatly improve the status of homosexual women. I believe that this approach would be the most effective due to the great influence the media has on members of today’s society; likewise, a shift in the media’s efforts could also lead way to the disintegration of the negative stigma attached to the LGBT community.


Armstrong, P. , & Deadman, J. (Eds. ). (2009). Women’s Health: Intersections of Policy, Research and Practise. Toronto, ON: Women’s Press: an imprint of Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc. Beaber, T. E. , & Werner, P. D. (2009). The relationship between anxiety and sexual functioning in lesbians and heterosexual women. Journal of Homosexuality, 56(5), 639-654. Kubik, W. (2012). WISE3P65: Health Issues for Women and Girls, Module 1. [Online Lecture Notes]. Retrieved from https://lms. brocku. ca/portal. Oswalt, S. B. , & Wyatt, T. J. (2011). Sexual Orientation and Differences in Mental Health, Stress, and Academic Performance in a National Sample of U. S. College Students. Journal of Homosexuality, 58(9), 1255-1280.

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