According to a study, by the Western Australia Centre for Health Promotion Research, lesbians and bisexual women are less healthy than their heterosexual counterparts. The study, conducted by associate researcher Jude Comfort and her team, was made on the basis of identity, community connectedness, legal and illegal drug use, diet and nutrition, physical activity, cancer screening, mental health, harassment, safe sex practices and accessing health services.
The analysis of the study found that the smoking rates in lesbians and bisexual women were almost double compared to the broader female community. Comfort said that alcohol use was also found to be higher, with about 30 per cent in them. She added that lesbians and bisexual women drank more alcohol than heterosexual women and drank it more often.
"We're talking about a group that socialises in a different way, around pubs and clubs," News.com.au quoted Comfort, as saying. "I would suggest one of the biggest issues is the marginalisation of lesbian women," Comfort said.
She added that internalised and externalised homophobia could also affect health of the gay female population. "Internalised homophobia is whether they are happy with their own sexuality, or if they give themselves a hard time over it. There are issues of self-esteem," Comfort said.
The analysis also found that about 30 per cent of lesbians and bisexual women had been diagnosed with depression; 20 per cent were having treatment for a mental health problem; 20 per cent were overweight and 23 per cent obese. Comfort said health systems had been slow to respond because they were seldom built with sexual minorities in mind.
"It could be argued that sexual orientation is a social determinant of health... yet there are few targeted programs which deal with general healthy lifestyle issues with this population. "Obviously there are lesbians who are healthy, but taking the results as a whole, the figures are alarming," she said.