Health issues and access to services

Woman and man embracing

Health issues

Stonewall has carried out research and produced a series of briefings on LGBT people's health, including bisexuality, disability, domestic abuse, ethnicity, experiences of healthcare and mental health. 

NHS Scotland's Dimensions of Diversity report shows that lesbian, gay and bisexual men and women:

  • have higher rates of smoking, alcohol consumption and drug use
  • have higher rates of attempted suicide and self-harm
  • have higher rates of depression and anxiety
  • men who have sex with men (MSM) are at higher risk of sexually transmitted infections, especially gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV.

Contributors to poorer health outcomes include:

  • exposure to bullying, and physical and verbal abuse
  • low self-esteem and societal attitudes
  • alcohol and drug use
  • feared or actual discrimination acting as a barrier to accessing health care.

Accessing health services 

According to Stonewall Scotland's report 'Your Services Your Say - LGBT People's Experiences of Public Services in Scotland' (2014), one in six LGBT people say that they have experienced poor treatment when accessing public services in the last three years.

Potential barriers to accessing services exist on both the patient and provider side and can include:

  • experiences and/or perception of discrimination
  • discriminatory attitudes
  • lack of knowledge about specific LGB health needs
  • lack of knowledge about wider LGB social issues.

Stonewall's (2011) survey revealed that a third of gay and bisexual men in Scotland who had accessed healthcare services in the previous year had a negative experience related to their sexual orientation. It found that only a quarter of gay and bisexual men said that their healthcare professional acknowledged that they were gay or bisexual after they had come out. Just one in ten were told that their partner was welcome to be present during a consultation.

An survey of lesbians and bisexual women in Scotland commissioned by Stonewall in 2008 contains findings about their health and experiences of health care. For example, the survey found that just three in ten lesbian and bisexual women say that healthcare workers did not make inappropriate comments when they came out. 

An Equality Network report (2015) on bisexual people's experiences of services shows that many feel they have faced discrimination, but also highlights areas of good practice.

Updated May 2015

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