The roughly one million New Yorkers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or other sexual orientation are less likely than the general population to receive adequate medical care, according to a new state Department of Health study.
The report said that LGBTQ+ people are less likely to get annual medical exams and are more likely to suffer from medical problems including depression, anxiety and binge drinking.
Advocates praised the health department for focusing on the medical issues LGBTQ+ people face. But some said those issues were already well known within the community and that more needed to be done to attack the societal rejection they viewed as the root of the problem.
“These increased health challenges are issues that we see in real life” at the advocacy and services group she helps run, said Maria Demauro, a community mobilization coordinator at PFY in Nassau County. “We see higher levels of mental health challenges due to a lack of support at home or from peers and people at school.”
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE LGBTQ STATE STUDY
- About one million New Yorkers identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or other sexual orientation, according to a new state Department of Health study.
- Many of them are not receiving proper medical care, and suffer from medical issues such as depression at a higher rate than the general population, the study says.
- A higher percentage of younger adults than older adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, other sexual orientation, transgender or gender-nonconforming, the study found.
The group makes up 7.9% of the state’s population, the report said, adding that another 0.5% identify as transgender or gender-nonconforming. It found the percentages are higher among younger adults ages 18 to 24 years old, with 15.6% identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual and other, or LGBO, and 1.5% identifying as transgender or gender-nonconforming.
David Kilmnick, president and CEO of the LGBT Network of Long Island, said it is positive the state is focusing on the health issue, but it needs to go further by addressing conditions that cause that community to feel isolated.
“The emphasis on health care, while it is important, misses the larger issue and problem of changing our society and changing our communities, and there needs to be just as much of an effort put into that — treating the sickness in society,” he said.
He described the “sickness” as “stigma, discrimination, homophobia, transphobia.”
“If we don’t address the homophobia and transphobia that exists there, and the institutional discrimination, we’re just running around in a circle,” he said.
The state report said LGBO adults and transgender adults are more likely to report not having a regular health care provider (24.4% and 27.5%) compared with the general adult population (20.5%).
Some 12.3% of the general adult population reported frequent mental distress, compared with 24.8% among LGBO adults and 30% among transgender adults.
More than 31% of LGBO adults and 37.8% of transgender adults reported that they had been diagnosed with a depressive disorder, compared with 16% of all adults in New York.
The report was led by the state Department of Health’s Bureau of Chronic Disease Evaluation and Research. State health officials said they did not have a breakdown of the numbers by counties. The survey was conducted through telephone interviews statewide.
The results will help guide officials as they seek to “reduce barriers to health care access and target the services needed to best care for LGBTQ+ community members — building a more compassionate public health and health care system in New York,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said.
The study also found that 22.9% of New York adults who identify as LGBO and 21.5% who identify as transgender report binge drinking or heavy drinking, compared with 17.4% in the general population.
Juli Grey-Owens, board chair and executive director of Huntington Station-based Gender Equality New York, Inc., said she was glad the state is focusing on the issue — and is allocating another $7 million in this coming year’s budget to address LGBTQ+ health and wellness needs.
“The information that they are finding is information that we’ve known for easily a decade or more,” Grey-Owens said. “We’re thrilled that they’re working on it, that steps are being taken, but this is part of a much bigger picture.”
She said she thought the state estimates of the LGBTQ+ population were fairly accurate, while Kilmnick said he thought it was an undercount.
“There’s a lot of LGBT folks who won’t come out on a survey because of fear of being ostracized, or discriminated against or bullied,” he said.