Ask the Doctor

LGBTs are Different

On February 26, 2014 the Department of Public Health of the County of Riverside (RivCo) released a report during a press conference at Desert AIDS Project. Media were there (You may search the websites with “LGBT Riverside County” of KMIR, KESQ, Press Enterprise, Desert Sun, and Inland News Today ).

I’d like to give you highlights from my perspective.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Health and Wellness Profile


The health concerns of this community are important and must be addressed.  Each of the 4 groups is compared to the heterosexuals in this county, the state, and the country where data is available. You may say, “Duh, these findings are obvious.” General knowledge should be confirmed by studies. People knew for certain that the earth was flat until somebody looked into it.  Once the disparities (differences) are documented, then steps can be taken to correct problems.

  • The estimated RivCo LGB population is 4.2%. This means that there are 70,000 to 236,000 LGBs in RivCo.
  • RivCo has the fifth largest number of same-sex couples of the California counties.
  • Palm Springs has the largest number of same-sex couples (2,440) of California cities, and is third in the nation in this category.
  • RivCo has one of the largest concentration LGBT communities in the country with LGBs making up 4.2% of the population and transgenders 0.1-0.3% (based on US estimate).
  • As groups, gays and lesbians in Riverside County RivCo report having higher education and income than straights. This is the opposite of national and state statistics.
  • Bisexuals in RivCo report being in the lower income and education brackets compared to Ls,Gs,Ts. And in RivCo and the state, bisexuals are less likely to be employed full time compared to lesbians, gays, and straights. 46.8% of bisexuals live at or below the 200% federal poverty line in the Inland Empire.
  • Transgenders had twice the rate of unemployment than others in a national study.
  • The main factor causing LGBT youth homelessness is family rejection and being forced out. About 68% experienced rejection and 54% experienced abuse in their family.
  • Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts trouble many LGBTs
  • 7th, 9th, and 11th graders (boys 11%, girls 9%) reported being harassed or bullied for being gay or lesbian or because someone thought they were in RivCo.
  • Nearly three times more reports of intimate partner violence come from bisexual women than straights.
  • LGBTs report more tobacco, excessive alcohol, poor diet, poor physical activity, and high risk sexual practices compared to straights.
  • Twice as many gay  and lesbians teens smoke when compared to straights
  • Gays have a 30-50% and lesbians have up to 70% greater rate of smoking rate compared to straights.  For bisexuals, a 69-114% higher rate.
  • Substance abuse is lower in the last two years in lesbians and gays while heavy and binge drinking is up in the general population.  Safe spaces for LGBTs to congregate many times have substances available and tobacco and alcohol companies sponsor LGBT events. Perhaps LGBTs use substances to cope with the extra stress of their status. As you know substance abuse is associated with greater risks of trauma, many health problems, STIs, and pregnancies.
  • LBs are 2-7 times at higher risk for teen pregnancy and these higher risk behaviors are linked to elevated rates of harassment, discrimination, and sexual or physical violence.
  • LBs give birth in large numbers so we should not overlook family planning needs in these ladies.
  • LG youth use condoms about half as often as straights.
  • A national report states that 11% of women and 6% of men report having at least 1 same-sex sexual experience in those age 15-44.
  • LGBs in general have more sexual partners per year than straights.
  • Gays are more likely to have eating disorders (due to the body image culture?), and lesbians are twice as likely to be overweight or obese compared to straights.
  • Reports from patients of cancer is more common in lesbians (9.1%) and gays (8.7%) than straights. Are these related to the poor health habits above or possibly distorted since gays have more anal pap smears than straights, and having low grade or higher cancers or a misunderstanding of the pap smear results?
  • Asthma is more common in lesbians (24.1%) and bisexuals (24.8%) than all other groups. Is this related to increased smoking, stress?


I will mention some more interesting findings in the next issue.

Keep those questions coming. Be Safe!

Daniel Pearce, D.O., FACOI, AAHIVS
Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, Loma Linda University School of Medicine
Adjunct Professor of Internal Medicine and HIV, Touro University California College of Osteopathic Medicine and Midwestern University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine
Researcher, Veterans Administration Hospital, Loma Linda
HIV Specialist, Riverside County Public Health Department
Hepatitis C Specialist and Researcher, Southern California Liver Centers, Riverside