Survey: Half of gay adults don't reveal sexual orientation to doctors

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com January 10 2003 1:00 AM ET

A new survey conducted by Witeck-Combs Communications and Harris Interactive shows that half of gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults do not tell their health care providers their sexual orientation, GayHealth.com reports. The survey also shows that gay patients are less likely than heterosexuals to have health insurance. "We are dismayed to learn how the 'closet' puts gays and lesbians at risk in speaking honestly with their doctor or primary health care provider," said Darin Johnson, vice president of Witeck-Combs. "Stigma and the potential for discrimination have for years been a major obstacle for lesbians and gays seeking appropriate health care."

More than 2,200 people participated in the survey, 159 of whom self-identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Only 49% of the gay and bisexual patients said they had discussed their sexual orientation with their doctor. Gay men were the mostly likely to be out to their doctors--67% said they had talked about their sexual orientation--followed by lesbians at 55%. Bisexuals, at 23%, were the least likely to reveal their sexual orientation.

About 70% of the gay survey respondents said they currently have health insurance, compared with 86% of the heterosexual respondents. Heterosexuals were also more likely to report being covered by their partner's health insurance--14% of the straight respondents received health coverage through their partner compared with 3% of the gay respondents.

"We all know that disclosing your sexual orientation to your health care provider is extremely important to obtaining the best medical advice, but the majority of GLBT people are not going to do that unless we feel safe and respected in the health care environment," Kathleen DeBold, executive director of the Mautner Project for Lesbians With Cancer, told GayHealth.com. "This survey is an important wake-up call for the medical establishment. If doctors and nurses are truly committed to providing the best care to all their patients, they need to increase their awareness of and sensitivity to the needs and concerns of their GLBT clients."