BOSTON — An article in the Atlantic that explores LGBT health issues over the last 40 years said higher rates of alcoholism, cancer, depression, smoking, suicide and violence stem in large part from not having reliable government-collected data on LGBT Americans.
“Having government-level research acknowledge the existence of sexual minorities has been incredibly controversial,” said Dr. Gregory Herek, a professor of psychology at the University of California. He recalled that the earliest attempt to include data on LGBT citizens, in the 1990 Hate Crimes Statistics Act, was “vehemently opposed” by anti-gay Sen. Jesse Helms and his counterpart in the House, Rep. William Dannemayer. “They didn’t want the numbers used by the ‘gay agenda’ to promote the size of the LGBT population,” Herek was quoted as saying by the Atlantic. “They didn’t want the groups to be able to say ‘here’s how many of us there are.’”
A report released in January by the National Institutes of Health LGBT Research Coordinating Committee revealed exceptionally thin NIH resources committed to investigating the well-documented health disparities among LGBT Americans.
The NIH report found that in fiscal 2010 (the most recent year for which data were available at the time of analysis) only 5 percent of the institutes’ LGBT health projects were focused on alcoholism; 7.7 percent on cancer; 2.7 percent on depression; 1.4 percent on smoking and health; 1.4 percent on suicide; and 6.3 percent on violence. The overwhelming majority of projects — 81.5 percent — dealt with gay men and HIV/AIDS, particularly on ways to reduce HIV transmission.
The slowly expanding scientific literature on LGBT health is evidence of researchers’ expanded interest in the field. But it’s another matter to find funding to support the work, researchers told the Atlantic, a situation they said is slowly improving overall.