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Mental Health

The LGBT population faces stigmatization and discrimination from many sources, including health care professionals. They also experience more social isolation than their heterosexual counterparts. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has also caused ostracism of gay and bisexual men. Both the discrimination and a fear of discrimination can have a negative impact on the health of individuals due to stress. All of these factors can lead to depression. Gay men are six times more likely and lesbians are twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to attempt suicide[1] [2] [3] [4].

Roberts[5] conducted a review of the research on lesbian health and found that lesbians have a higher use of mental health services and more suicide attempts, but no greater history of depression, than the general female population. She also found that both women and men reporting any same-sex sexual activity were more likely than those reporting no same-sex sexual activity to have used mental health services in the previous year.

There is controversy surrounding whether the LGBT population uses more alcohol[5], while some studies show there is no difference in alcohol consumption compared to heterosexuals[3], many studies show a higher prevalence of substance abuse in gay men and lesbians as compared to heterosexual individuals[2]. Data from the Women’s Health Initiative revealed heavier alcohol consumption among lesbian and bisexual women as well as increased rates of depression[6].

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1. Peterkin A, Risdon C. Caring for Lesbian and Gay People: A Clinical Guide. 2003. University of Toronto Press Incorporated. Toronto, Ontario.

2. Anonymous [Council on Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association]. Health care needs of gay men and lesbians in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association. 1996;275(17):1354-1359.

3. Lee R. Health care problems of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients. Western Journal of Medicine. 2000;172:403-408.

4. Solarz, AL Ed. Lesbian Health: Current Assessment and Directions for the Future. Washington DC. National Academy Press; 1999.

5. Roberts SJ. Lesbian health research: a review and recommendations for future research. Health Care for Women International. 2001;22:537-552.

6. Valanis BG, Bowen DJ, Bassfort T, Whitlock E, Charney P, Carter RA. Sexual orientation and health: comparisons in the women's health initiative sample. Archives of Family Medicine. 2000;9(9):843-53.

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