Stonewall Scotland report reveals impact of discrimination on health of LGBT people
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Stonewall Scotland report reveals impact of discrimination on health of LGBT people

  • Half of LGBT people (49 per cent) have experienced depression in the last year, including seven in ten trans people (72 per cent)

  • A quarter (24 per cent) of LGBT people have witnessed discrimination or negative remarks against LGBT people by healthcare staff

  • Almost two in five trans people (37 per cent) avoid seeking healthcare for fear of discrimination from staff

New research from Stonewall Scotland, the lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality charity, has exposed alarming levels of poor mental health among LGBT people, compared to the general population. The study also reveals a shocking level of unfair treatment faced by many LGBT people when accessing healthcare services.

The research, based on YouGov polling of over 1,250 LGBT people in Scotland, shows that half of LGBT people (49 per cent) have experienced depression in the last year and three in five (60 per cent) have reported episodes of anxiety. This compares to one in ten adults in Scotland who have faced two or more symptoms of depression in the last year, according to the Scottish Government’s Scottish Health Survey.

Experiences of anti-LGBT abuse and discrimination on the street, at home, and at work, were also revealed to significantly increase a person’s risk of poor mental health. Two thirds of LGBT people (65 per cent) who’ve been the victim of a hate crime related to their sexual orientation or gender identity had experienced depression, while three in four (75 per cent) reported having episodes of anxiety.

The situation is particularly concerning for trans people. In the last 12 months alone, with seven per cent having attempted to take their own life in the last year, compared to two per cent of lesbian, gay and bi people who aren’t trans. A further 52 per cent of trans people have also had thoughts about taking their own life, compared to 29 per cent of LGB people who aren’t trans.

The research found that LGBT people often have their specific health needs overlooked by healthcare professionals and many face unfair treatment when accessing healthcare. Shockingly, one in four LGBT patients (24 per cent) had witnessed negative remarks about LGBT people from healthcare staff while accessing services. One in eight LGBT people (12 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 of their sexual orientation or gender identity. One in four LGBT people (27 per cent) have experienced healthcare staff lacking understanding of their specific health needs.

On the basis of these findings, Stonewall Scotland recommends that all healthcare staff receive training on LGBT patients’ needs in relation to both mental and physical health, with these needs also taken into consideration throughout the implementation of the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy.  Stonewall Scotland is also calling for a zero-tolerance approach to incidents of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic discrimination in the health service.

Colin Macfarlane, Director of Stonewall Scotland, said: ‘Last year, our research found an 89 per cent increase over a five-year period in the proportion of LGBT people who had experienced a hate crime. Sadly, this report highlights the impact that hostility and abuse have on mental health and wellbeing, with many lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in Scotland experiencing poor mental health this year.’

‘It’s vital that LGBT people feel able to access quality healthcare when they need it, but this report shows they can expect to face unequal treatment and discrimination when accessing healthcare services.  Many LGBT people – particularly those who are trans – continue to be ‘outed’ without their consent, treated with inappropriate curiosity and subjected to unequal treatment by healthcare staff. Consequently, LGBT people can be deterred from accessing NHS services, with many avoiding healthcare treatment for fear of discrimination.’

‘Fortunately, we’ve seen strong commitments from NHS Scotland to ensure health services support LGBT people.  The Scottish Government and NHS Scotland must continue to take action to ensure all staff understand the mental and physical health needs of LGBT people and how to support them.  We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with NHS Scotland to ensure that our health service enables LGBT people in Scotland to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.’

Testimonies: 

 “We are still seeing terrible bullying and mental health issues in young LGBT people. A close friend's trans grandson took his life in the last two weeks. He didn't get the chance to learn that it gets better.” (Gillian, 50)

“Until very recently, I seldom had a good relationship with health centre staff, GPs and nurses. It seems to me that it never occurs to many of them to ask for or be receptive to information about gender & sexuality so that they can factor this in when dealing with healthcare needs.  I suggest much better training is required in some areas.  I’m 65 now and this is a concern as I think about ageing and how people are treated in hospitals and in care homes.” (Linda, 65)

“When I attended at A&E and more than one medical member of staff asked, ‘Is this your friend?’ when gesturing to my wife. How hard would it be for all staff to ask all patients ‘who have you brought with you to hospital today?’. I'm sure if my wife had been a man they wouldn't have asked if she was my friend.” (Elaine, 56)

“I have experienced repeated expression of prejudiced attitudes towards me by mental health service providers due to me being trans, some in NHS and some in non-NHS services. Repeatedly being needlessly outed as trans without my consent by NHS professionals to other NHS professionals despite being transitioned for over 15 years and having a Gender Recognition Certificate. And repeatedly being asked intrusive and completely irrelevant questions by NHS professionals about my transition and other aspects of being trans.” (Euan, 39)