Demonstrating the importance and feasibility of including sexual orientation in public health surveys: health disparities in the Pacific Northwest

Am J Public Health. 2010 Mar;100(3):460-7. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.130336. Epub 2009 Aug 20.


Objectives: We identified health disparities for a statewide population of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) men and women compared with their heterosexual counterparts.

Methods: We used data from the 2003-2006 Washington State Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to examine associations between sexual orientation and chronic health conditions, health risk behaviors, access to care, and preventive services.

Results: Lesbian and bisexual women were more likely than were heterosexual women to have poor physical and mental health, asthma, and diabetes (bisexuals only), to be overweight, to smoke, and to drink excess alcohol. They were also less likely to have access to care and to use preventive services. Gay and bisexual men were more likely than were heterosexual men to have poor mental health, poor health-limited activities, and to smoke. Bisexuals of both genders had the greatest number and magnitude of disparities compared with heterosexuals.

Conclusions: Important health disparities exist for LGB adults. Sexual orientation can be effectively included as a standard demographic variable in public health surveillance systems to provide data that support planning interventions and progress toward improving LGB health.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Bisexuality / psychology
  • Bisexuality / statistics & numerical data*
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Heterosexuality / statistics & numerical data
  • Homosexuality, Female / psychology
  • Homosexuality, Female / statistics & numerical data*
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology
  • Homosexuality, Male / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oregon / epidemiology
  • Public Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Washington / epidemiology