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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

CHAS Reveals Health Disparities for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Coloradans

For the first time, the 2013 Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS) asked respondents to answer a question about their sexual orientation. A new publication detailing these data reveal health disparities among lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) Coloradans compared with their heterosexual peers.

The data group together respondents who answered that they were gay, lesbian, or bisexual, as well as those who answered that they were something else or not sure. Because the survey did not ask about gender identity, the results do not explicitly reflect the health status of the transgender community in Colorado.

Our analysis found that mental health and access to mental health care are among the biggest health challenges for the LGB community.

More than one of five (22.5 percent) LGB Coloradans reported eight or more days or poor mental health in the past month. In comparison, about one of 10 (12.4 percent) of heterosexual Coloradans report this level of poor mental health.

Along with poorer mental health outcomes, the CHAS revealed that access to mental health care is an issue for the community. Nearly one of four LGB Coloradans needed mental health care in the 12 months prior to the survey but did not receive it. This rate was more than double the rate for heterosexual respondents.

When asked why they did not receive mental health care, both heterosexual and LGB Coloradans cited lack of insurance and cost of treatment most frequently. However, some of the other reasons given show a divide between heterosexual and LGB responses. Of those LGB Coloradans who did not receive needed mental health care, 44.5 percent said it was because they did not feel comfortable talking with a health professional about their personal problems. By comparison, 27.3 percent of heterosexuals cited this reason as a barrier.

National and statewide reports on sexual orientation and health reflect the increasing demand for data on this population.

Recently, a National Center for Health Statistics’ survey for the first time provided nationwide data on the issue. In addition, the mental health findings from the CHAS mirror results found in a study conducted by One Colorado – a statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization. In that study, 41 percent of LGBT respondents surveyed said they were not very open with their ­care provider about their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Of those, 41 percent said that it was because they worried that their provider is not supportive of LGBT people. 

Given the results of such surveys, increased provider education could be one tactic to encourage more LGB Coloradans to seek needed mental health services.

You can view the brief in its entirety here