Measuring Sexual Orientation and Chronic Disease Prevalence

LGBTQ populations experience higher rates of chronic disease

A recent article in Annals of Epidemiology examines the ways in which sexual orientation is measured in studies seeking to understand chronic disease disparities between sexual minorities and their heterosexual peers. Sexual minorities experience higher rates of a variety of chronic diseases, including asthma, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, and hypertension, though rates vary based on gender and sexual orientation within sexual minority populations. The disparities are hypothesized to be related to minority stress theory which posits that “the excess, chronic stress experienced by sexual minorities is internalized and accumulates across the life course, resulting in physical health disparities.”

However, the authors argue that it is important to note how sexual orientation is being defined; while it can be assessed by sexual identity, sexual behavior, and attraction, public health surveys frequently only use one or two of those dimensions to collect their data. Estimates of health disparities differ based on the dimensions of sexual orientation that were assessed, so the authors conclude that the “gold standard for sexual orientation measurement is to assess the three dimensions of sexual orientation.”

You can access the article in Annals of Epidemiology here: