A population-based study of sexual orientation identity and gender differences in adult health

Am J Public Health. 2010 Oct;100(10):1953-60. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.174169. Epub 2010 Jun 1.


Objectives: We provide estimates of several leading US adult health indicators by sexual orientation identity and gender to fill gaps in the current literature.

Methods: We aggregated data from the 2001-2008 Massachusetts Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance surveys (N = 67,359) to examine patterns in self-reported health by sexual orientation identity and gender, using multivariable logistic regression.

Results: Compared with heterosexuals, sexual minorities (i.e., gays/lesbians, 2% of sample; bisexuals, 1%) were more likely to report activity limitation, tension or worry, smoking, drug use, asthma, lifetime sexual victimization, and HIV testing, but did not differ on 3-year Papanicolaou tests, lifetime mammography, diabetes, or heart disease. Compared with heterosexuals, bisexuals reported more barriers to health care, current sadness, past-year suicidal ideation, and cardiovascular disease risk. Gay men were less likely to be overweight or obese and to obtain prostate-specific antigen tests, and lesbians were more likely to be obese and to report multiple risks for cardiovascular disease. Binge drinking and lifetime physical intimate partner victimization were more common among bisexual women.

Conclusions: Sexual orientation disparities in chronic disease risk, victimization, health care access, mental health, and smoking merit increased attention. More research on heterogeneity in health and health determinants among sexual minorities is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / epidemiology
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Bisexuality / statistics & numerical data*
  • Domestic Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Homosexuality, Female / statistics & numerical data*
  • Homosexuality, Male / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / epidemiology
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Sex Distribution
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Young Adult