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Study: LGB New Yorkers Face Stark Health Disparities

By Sunnivie Brydum

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual New York City residents are more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to struggle with mental health problems and to be victims of sexual assault, according to a new study from the Empire State Pride Agenda

The study, billed as the most comprehensive report to date on health disparities of LGB people in the city, relied on data collected by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. It examined the prevalence of diagnosed depression, other mental health issues, eating disorders, and alcohol and tobacco use within the LGB population, exploring how race, ethnicity, gender, and poverty affect the health of LGB New Yorkers. 

The comprehensive report discovered that one in five white lesbian and gay students had missed school in the past 30 days due to feeling unsafe. While black and Latino LGB youth reported slightly lower rates of truancy, the report makes clear that school safety is a significant issue for LGB youth. 

Among high school students, almost 20% of lesbian and bisexual females reported being forced to have sex, while 18.4% of bisexual men and 15.4% of gay men reported such assaults. The prevalence of forced sex among heterosexual students was 4.6% for males and 7% for females. The study also revealed that LGB youth are much more likely to be the victims of intimate partner violence than are straight youth. 

The study also noted a high risk factor for eating disorders among LGB youth, finding a shockingly high instance of bulimic behavior among gay and bisexual young men. A whopping 21.6% of gay and bisexual men reported vomiting or using laxatives to lose weight in the last 30 days. Just 3.4% of heterosexual males reported using such tactics to lose weight. Almost 13% of lesbian high school girls reported using laxatives or vomiting to lose weight, while heterosexual girls had an instance of 4.7%. 

The study made note of the exclusion of transgender people, pointing out that the data collected by the city and used for this report does not inquire about a respondent's gender identity. Pride Agenda suggested that in future surveys these forms include a section asking respondents if they are transgender. 

Read the full report in PDF form here.

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