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Stonewall report reveals impact of discrimination on health of LGBT people

  • Half of LGBT people (52 per cent) experienced depression in the last year

  • Research shows LGBT people face widespread discrimination in healthcare settings

  • One in seven LGBT people (14 per cent) avoid seeking healthcare for fear of discrimination from staff

New research from Stonewall, Britain’s leading charity for lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality, exposes alarming levels of poor mental health among LGBT people compared to the general population. Stonewall’s study also reveals a shockingly high level of hostility and unfair treatment faced by many LGBT people when accessing healthcare services.

The research, based on YouGov polling of over 5,000 LGBT people, shows more than half of LGBT people (52 per cent) have experienced depression in the last year, and three in five (61 per cent) had anxiety. This compares to one in six adults in England who faced a common mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression, according to Mind.

Experiences of anti-LGBT abuse and discrimination on the street, at home, and at work were also revealed to significantly increase the risk of poor mental health. Two-thirds of LGBT people who’ve been the victim of a hate crime (69 per cent) experienced depression, while three in four (76 per cent) reported having episodes of anxiety.

The situation is particularly concerning for trans people. In the last 12 months alone, more than one in 10 trans people (12 per cent) attempted to take their own life, compared to two per cent of LGB people who aren’t trans. Almost half of trans people (46 per cent) have also had thoughts about taking their own life.

Shockingly, almost one in four patients (23 per cent) had witnessed negative remarks about LGBT people from healthcare staff while accessing services. One in seven LGBT people (14 per cent) said they have avoided treatment altogether for fear of the discrimination they may face.

Of those who do seek support, one in eight (13 per cent) have experienced some form of unequal treatment from healthcare staff because they’re LGBT. A quarter of LGBT people (25 per cent) also faced a lack of understanding of their specific health needs; a figure that rises to 62 per cent for trans patients.

On the basis of this report, Stonewall is calling for better training for all health and social care staff, with specific guidance on how to meet the needs of LGBT patients. NHS England should also make mental health a key priority for the new National LGBT Health Adviser.

Paul Twocock, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research at Stonewall, said: ‘Simply being lesbian, gay, bi or trans shouldn’t mean you’re at higher risk of experiencing poorer mental health or should have to expect unequal treatment from healthcare services in Britain today. Unfortunately, this report shows that for many, it still does.

‘Despite some outstanding progress by committed individuals and institutions, we are still seeing a bleak picture of LGBT health – both mental and physical – in 2018. Half of LGBT people (52 per cent) have experienced depression, while three in five (61 per cent) reported having episodes of anxiety.

‘And it’s no wonder this is the case: LGBT people still face routine discrimination in all areas of their lives. The Government’s annual hate crime report revealed a 32 per cent rise in anti-trans hate crimes in the last year, while those based on sexual orientation jumped by 27 per cent. What this new research shows is the devastating impact hate and abuse has on LGBT people’s mental health and well-being. Victims of anti-LGBT hate crime are at far greater risk of experiencing mental health problems compared to other LGBT people and the wider population.

‘We need the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments and the NHS to take action and ensure health service staff at all levels understand the needs of all LGBT people and how to support them. The £1m fund announced by the UK Government to improve health and social care for LGBT people in England is an important first step. We look forward to working with the UK Government’s newly appointed National Adviser for LGBT healthcare in England, and alongside NHS Wales. In Scotland, we look forward to continuing our ongoing partnership with NHS Scotland. Across Britain, we want to help create a world where every LGBT person is supported to a lead a happy, healthy life.’

Testimonies: 

‘I am being treated for depression, which is caused in part by not being able to access any LGBT senior age-related groups within 80 miles of me. I would be actively involved in such a group if I could find one, but there is nothing. I feel very isolated.’ Rosemary, 70 (Wales)

‘I got sectioned after a suicide attempt and the nurse said that my mental health problems were due to allowing Satan in my soul. If I just accepted my true gender then God could forgive me.’ Elijah, 19 (South East)

‘Health professionals ask if I might be pregnant, and when I say no, follow up with 'Have you had unprotected sex with your partner since your last period' which, even if I had, would hardly get me pregnant. Having to decide whether to come out to people you hardly know and may never see again is never-ending and a little bit wearying.’ Tilly, 42 (Scotland)

Read the full LGBT in Britain Health report.

In December, we will be releasing a separate Scottish and Welsh cornerstone report with more in-depth analysis of the two nations.