Health risk factors and health-seeking behavior in lesbians

J Womens Health. 1997 Feb;6(1):103-12. doi: 10.1089/jwh.1997.6.103.


Lesbians may engage in behavior that places their health at risk and may delay health care and screening more than do their heterosexual counterparts. This article examines influences on lesbians' health risk factors and health-seeking behaviors. A statewide, self-administered survey of members of a lesbian community organization was performed. Univariate and bivariate analyses were calculated, and linear regression was used to examine models of health risks and health-seeking behavior. Of 324 respondents, 90% had disclosed sexual orientation to at least one provider, 22% reported seeking care without symptoms (preventive care), and 23% reported waiting until symptoms are at their worst or never seeking care. Young age, belief in the importance of lung cancer, difficulty of getting health care when needed, reliance on the partner for health support, and fewer male partners were all associated with greater health risk for lesbians. Difficulty obtaining health care, difficulty communicating with the primary care provider, discomfort in discussing depression, and degree of comfort in discussing menopause were all associated with a delay in seeking health care. Sensitive communication with lesbians and further identification of lesbians' specific barriers to care may improve health-seeking behavior and provide more opportunities for screening and risk factor counseling in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Homosexuality, Female / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Oregon
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Surveys and Questionnaires