Objectives: We examined evidence that minority sexual orientation is associated with more-frequent reports of physical health complaints. We also investigated the possible role of HIV infection among gay men and higher rates of psychological distress among lesbians, gay men, and bisexually and homosexually experienced heterosexual individuals in generating these health disparities.
Methods: We used data from the California Quality of Life Survey (N=2272 adults) to examine associations between sexual orientation and self-reports about physical health status, common health conditions, disabilities, and psychological distress.
Results: Prevalent HIV infection was reported by nearly 18% of gay, bisexual, and homosexually experienced heterosexual men. Gay men and bisexual and homosexually experienced heterosexual individuals had higher levels of psychological distress compared with exclusively heterosexual individuals. Self-reported physical health status varied by gender and by sexual orientation.
Conclusions: Lesbians and bisexual and homosexually experienced heterosexual women reported a greater variety of health conditions and limitations compared with exclusively heterosexual women; however, these differences mostly disappeared when distress levels were taken into account. Among men, differences in health complaints appeared to reflect the ongoing burden of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in the gay male community.