Women and general health needs

The health needs of lesbians are one of the most neglected research areas in health care. There is however increased recognition by some researchers that lesbians do have unique health care concerns, and are generally underserved by the health sector.

Research suggests that lesbians do not respond to preventive health care messages, and do not seek intervention or support from the health sector. Lesbians also have specific health issues relating to fertility, pregnancy, sexual health, and mental health. Some are also concerned with weight issues, eating disorders, relationships, smoking, drinking and drug use.

Research suggests that lesbians want to disclose their sexual orientation to their GP, but are reluctant to do so because they think that they might be discriminated against. This can lead to inappropriate delivery of services, for example, a woman may continue to take the contraceptive pill rather than indicate that they are lesbian. Research suggests that lesbians are generally unhappy with the level of service they receive from the health sector.

Research also suggests that lesbian identity does not necessarily reflect a lifetime of same-sex only relationships. Some women who identify as lesbian do have sex with men, or have had sex with men in the past. Furthermore, previous sexual relationships with men have an impact on a lesbian’s health care needs.

America and Australia are both conducting further research into lesbian health needs, and some work has been conducted in the UK. There is still, however, distinctly less research into lesbian health needs in comparison to gay men’s health needs. A thorough national needs assessment would help fill this gap.


  • The Liquidity of Female Sexuality and the Tenaciousness of Lesbian Identity P Bart (1993)
  • LYSIS (Lesbian Youth Support Information Service) Report J Bridget (1994)
  • Lesbian Youth Support Information Service (LYSIS): developing a distance support agency for young lesbians J Bridget, S Lucille (1996)
  • Heart Truth for Lesbians K DeBold (2004)
  • Sexual orientation and variation in physical and mental health status among women (USA) A Diamant, C Wold (2003)
  • Sampling Lesbians: How to Get 1000 Lesbians to Complete a Questionnaire J Fish (1999)
  • UK National Lesbians and Health Care Survey J Fish, D Anthony (2005)
  • Lesbians and Health Care: A National Survey of Lesbians' Health Behaviour and Experiences J Fish (2005)
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  • First, service: Relationships, sex and health among lesbian and bisexual women Sigma Research (2002)
  • Health Needs of Women who have Sex with Women: Healthcare workers need to be aware of their Specific Needs C Hughes, A Evans (2003)
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  • Outing lesbian health in medical education R McNair (2003)
  • In search of lesbian space: The experience of Manchester's gay village A Pritchard, N Morgan, D Sedgley (2002)
  • A Mighty Silence: The Needs of Lesbian and Bisexual Women in Northern Ireland M Quirey (2002)
  • Lesbian Health: Current Assessment and Directions for the Future A Solarz (1999)
  • Women's sexual health, sexual satisfaction, and sexual orientation A Stulhofer, M Gregurovic, D Stulhofer (2003)
  • Lesbian health: what are the issues? P N Stern (1994).
  • Lesbian health: current assessment and directions for the future. A L. Solarz (2003)
  • Lesbian health matters! M O’Donnell (2005).
  • Gateways to improving lesbian health and health care: opening doors. C M. Pontiecelli. (1998)
  • Treating lesbians and bisexual women: challenges and strategies for health professionals. E P Gruskin (2001).
  • Lesbian health inequalities: a cultural minority issue for health professionals R McNair (2003)


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