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Open Access Research article

The health of people classified as lesbian, gay and bisexual attending family practitioners in London: a controlled study

Michael King1 and Irwin Nazareth2*

Author Affiliations

1 Professor of Primary Care Psychiatry, Department of Mental Health Sciences, Royal Free and University College Medical School, University College London, Royal Free Campus, Rowland Hill Street, London NW3 2PF, UK

2 Professor of Primary Care & Population Sciences & Director MRC General Practice Research Framework, Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, Royal Free and University College Medical School, University College London (UCL), Rowland Hill Street, London NW3 2PF, UK

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:127  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-127

Published: 8 May 2006

Abstract

Background

The morbidity of gay, lesbian or bisexual people attending family practice has not been previously assessed. We compared health measures of family practice attendees classified as lesbian, gay and bisexual.

Methods

We conducted a cross-sectional, controlled study conducted in 13 London family practices and compared the responses of 26 lesbian and 85 bisexual classified women, with that of 934 heterosexual classified women and 38 gay and 23 bisexual classified men with that of 373 heterosexual classified men. Our outcomes of interest were: General health questionnaire; CAGE questionnaire; short form12; smoking status; sexual experiences during childhood; number of sexual partners and sexual function and satisfaction.

Results

In comparison to people classified as heterosexuals: men classified as gay reported higher levels of psychological symptoms (OR 2.48, CI 1.05–5.90); women classified as bisexual were more likely to misuse alcohol (OR 2.73, 1.70–4.40); women classified as bisexual (OR 2.53, 1.60–4.00) and lesbian (OR 3.13, 1.41–6.97) and men classified as bisexual (OR 2.48, 1,04, 5.86) were more likely to be smokers and women classified as bisexual (OR 3.27, 1.97–5.43) and men classified as gay (OR 4.86, 2.28–10.34) were much more likely to report childhood sexual experiences in childhood. Psychological distress was associated with reporting sexual experiences in childhood in men classified as gay and bisexual and women classified as heterosexual. Men classified as bisexual (OR 5.00, 1.73–14.51) and women classified as bisexual (OR 2.88, 1.24- 6.56) were more likely than heterosexuals to report more than one sexual partner in the preceding four weeks. Lesbian, gay and bisexual classified people encountered no more sexual function problems than heterosexuals but men classified as bisexual (OR 2.74, 1.12–6.70) were more dissatisfied with their sex lives.

Conclusion

Bisexual and lesbian classified people attending London general practices were more likely to be smokers and gay classified men were at increased risk of psychological distress in comparison to heterosexual classified people. Increased awareness of the sexuality of people seen in primary care can provide opportunities for health promotion.