A hazard sign for lesbian and bisexual women: according to a new study that examined women in the health system, lesbian and bisexual women smoke more, use more drugs and drink more alcohol. They are also more exposed to violence relative to heterosexual women.
1,797 women participated in the study, 957 of whom were heterosexual, 618 were lesbian and 242 bisexual.
The gaps between the heterosexual women to the others was large. While only 17 percent of the heterosexual women stated that they use drugs, the rate was up 25 percent among lesbian and bisexual women. Even smoking among lesbians and bi women was higher, an average of 1.2 packs a day, compared with 0.9 among straight women.
60 percent of the lesbian and bisexual women consume alcohol, compared to 47 percent among heterosexual women. The gap exists even in eating disorders, with 20 percent of the lesbian and bi women suffering from eating disorders. This is double the rate of heterosexual women .
A worrying result is the high rate of exposure to violence. Among the two populations this data is too high: 15 percent among heterosexual, and 23 percent among lesbian and bisexual women. However, the researchers didn’t examine what kind of violence this is, but referred to violence according to a definition by the woman herself.
The purpose of this study was to examine the medical needs of bisexual and lesbian women in Israel and their use of primary outpatient services in community’s medical services. The results showed that they are not satisfied with the system and the treatment given to them, and the dissatisfaction is largely due to their difficulty to share their sexual orientation with the physician.
“We looked at the health issues and use of health services of lesbian and bisexual women and compared them to those of heterosexual women. We find that lesbian and bisexual women drink more, smoke and use drugs more, and use the health services less,” says Zohar Mor MD, Health Ministry doctor who conducted the research.
“That is, they visit their family physician less frequently and have no regular family doctor. They also go to the gynecologist less often because they don’t require contraceptive pills, and therefore they don’t have the essential Pap smear tests for early detection of cervical cancer,” explains Dr. Mor. “One of the conclusions from the study is that there is room for physicians to encourage reporting of sexual preference to accommodate the medical recommendations.”