LGBTQ people twice as likely to smoke, suffer from depression as other Minnesotans, says Rainbow Health Initiative
|Rainbow Health Initiative surveyed LGBTQ people about their health.|
Another, a transgender man, described an experience when he started experiencing pain, but his doctor couldn't find the cause. What his doctor didn't know was that he had had a double mastectomy and a family history of breast cancer, because the patient hadn't told his provider about his gender identity.
These respondents aren't alone. The results of RHI's landmark health survey, announced today, showed that LGBTQ people living in Minnesota experience markedly poorer health outcomes than other Minnesotans.
"This is a hidden disparity," says Sheila Nezhad, RHI's Research and Education Manager. "A lot of people ask themselves how identity can impact care, and it turns out, negatively."
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The survey is the first of its kind in Minnesota, and one of only a handful of similar analyses across the country. Nezhad could think of only three other states that collect data on LGBTQ health: Colorado, Missouri and New Mexico.
RHI has been conducting a survey since 2009, but those results were basic and used only internally. In summer 2012, the organization hired Nezhad and launched a more sophisticated process.
Between June and October, RHI distributed paper surveys at pride events in the Twin Cities, Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud (about 30 percent of the respondents live in rural areas), and also conducted the survey online. 1,669 people responded total, and 1,144 of them identified as LGBTQ.
"It's a pretty significant sample size as far as the population as a whole, says Nezhad. "And pretty remarkable for this kind of research, which is often conducted in a focus group."
The results of the survey showed marked differences in LGBTQ respondents' quality of care. 41.3 percent of those surveyed reported that, like the transgender man with breast cancer, they are not out to their doctor about their orientation or identity.
One in four respondents said they have received poor care because of their identity, and more than one in six said they have been discriminated against by a health care provider because of their orientation or identity.
Most surprising, however, were the results that looked at specific rates. Thirty percent of LGBTQ respondents smoke every day or some days per week (60 percent want to quit), 41 percent have been diagnosed with depression and 37 percent with anxiety. These rates are double Minnesota's overall numbers.
"We kind of expected [the high rates] because there's a lot of anecdotal evidence," says Nezhad, "but the fact that it's actually twice the rate of the state average is very shocking to me."
RHI hasn't looked in-depth at the causes for some of the results, but "I think part of it is certainly stigma and discrimination," Nezhad offers. "There's greater discrimination in the workplace and in housing, especially for transgender people, and all of these other co-occurring stresses."
Nezhad cautions that the results are a little restricted as far as breaking down specific identities -- the survey doesn't offer any insights into the habits of, for instance, transgender people specifically -- but also notes that any legislation that might result from the survey would likely be aimed at a similarly broad population.
Rainbow Health Initiative will officially release the full report at an event this afternoon at the Wilder Foundation in St. Paul.