The continuing development of health disparities research on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Individuals

Authors:

Ron Stall
Derrick D. Matthews
Mackey R. Friedman
Suzanne Kinsky
James E. Egan
Robert W. S. Coulter
John R. Blosnich
Nina Markovic

Abstract:

The publication of the article by Cochran et al.1 realizes an important benchmark in the continued maturation of health disparities research on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations by demonstrating that the numerous health disparities already documented among these populations also extend for sexual minority men and women to the ultimate biological outcome of mortality. LGBT health disparities research began by recruiting small-scale convenience samples that analyzed self-report measures of psychosocial health problems such as depression or substance abuse.2 With the advent of AIDS, research methods among men who have sex with men moved to larger-scale studies with biological outcomes that occasionally took household-based samples of neighborhoods that enjoyed relatively high densities of men who have sex with men. HIV/AIDS research documented important health disparities in terms of multiple psychosocial health problems and in terms of AIDS itself. However, the samples that were taken could not be directly compared with the general population, the focus tended to be on morbidity, and sampling methods underemphasized the recruitment of racial minorities and, by design, omitted or underrepresented the important sexual and gender minority populations of lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals. The contribution of Cochran et al.1 is further distinguished by the fact that they analyzed data from the population-based National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to document that both sexual minority men and women suffer excess mortality compared with heterosexuals. Thus, the publication of this article marks an important milestone in the continuing development of LGBT health research, which started with the initiation of pioneering, small-scale studies approximately four decades ago.