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Healthcare Providers React More Positively To Men Than Women Who Reveal They're Gay

Armen Hareyan's picture

Gay and Lesbian Health

Men and people over 40 are much more likely to report positive experiences when they tell healthcare providers they are not heterosexual, according research in the latest Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Women patients reported that healthcare providers were more likely to assume they were heterosexual, adding that more than one in ten were uncomfortable when they disclosed they were lesbian or bisexual.

They were also twice as likely as men to report that their care was negatively affected by their disclosure.

Researchers from Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand, surveyed 2,269 lesbian, gay and bisexual people to discover how they felt about revealing their sexuality and the reaction of primary healthcare providers, such as family doctors and practice nurses, when they did.

"It's important that healthcare providers are aware of people's sexuality as non disclosure has been shown to have a negative impact on their health" says nurse researcher and lecturer Dr Stephen Neville.

"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."

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Key findings included:

  • Both sexes said that their healthcare professional's attitude to sexual identity was important to them when they chose a provider. This was particularly important for women and people under 40.

  • 83 per cent of women and 66 per cent of men said that their healthcare provider assumed they were heterosexual. They were more likely to make that assumption if the patient was under 40 (76 per cent) than over 40 (71 per cent).

  • Women were more likely to disclose their sexuality in a primary healthcare setting than men (72 per cent compared with 65 per cent) and there was a similar gap between people over 40 (76 per cent) and under 40 (61 per cent).

  • 78 per cent of women and 86 per cent of men said their healthcare provider was "completely comfortable" with their disclosure, but 11 per cent of women and six per cent of men said they were "somewhat uncomfortable". 11 per cent of women and eight per cent of men said their provider ignored the disclosure.

  • Healthcare professionals seemed to respond better to disclosures by older patients, with 85 per cent of people over 40 and 78 per cent of people under 40 saying that their healthcare provider was "completely comfortable" with their disclosure.

  • 43 per cent of men said that they felt their healthcare provider's attitude to their disclosure influenced the care they received in a positive way, compared with 28 per cent of women. Five per cent of women - twice as many as men - felt it had a negative effect.

  • Older people were also more positive. 38 per cent of those over 40 and 33 per cent of those under 40 reported a positive effect. Five per cent of people under 40