Comparison of Medical Diagnoses among Same-Sex and Opposite-Sex-Partnered Patients

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Abstract

Background:

Health disparities for gay and lesbian individuals are well documented in survey research. However, a limitation throughout the existing literature is the reliance on self-reported health conditions. This study used medical record diagnoses for gay and lesbian patients seen in primary care clinics.

Methods:

This study used medical records of primary care patients (n = 31,569) seen at Midwestern, university-affiliated primary care clinics. First, all records with information about the sexual partnering of the patient were identified (n = 13,509). Then, opposite-sex-partnered and same-sex-partnered (SSP) patients were compared for prevalence of common chronic conditions and clinic utilization.

Results:

Only 44.20% of medical records included information about patients' sexual partners. Both male and female SSP patients were more likely to be lower socioeconomic status, be a current or former smoker, and be diagnosed with substance abuse/dependence and depression.

Conclusions:

The findings suggest the need for more consistent screening of the sexual partnering of patients for identifying patients who are at greater risk of poorer health outcomes. However, identifying the sexual partnering of patients may not occur systematically in primary care, and there may be a lack of disclosure by SSP patients to their physicians given the social stigma about same-sex relationships.

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