New data is shedding light on the difference in well-being between LGBT and non-LGBT Americans, and it's highlighting a crucial, yet overlooked fact about the community: LGBT people, but LGBT women in particular, are less likely to have a primary care doctor or to be able to afford health care in the first place.
These insights are courtesy of new Gallup polling numbers that examined the physical and financial well-being of LGBT people, as well as their access to health insurance and doctors. Gallup's data revealed that on average, LGBT people are far more likely that their straight counterparts to be uninsured, while LGBT women in particular are more likely than non-LGBT women, non-LGBT men and even LGBT men to lack a personal doctor, by a 13-point margin.
This information dovetails nicely with related findings from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which revealed that, overall, the LGBT community has poorer well-being, with LGBT women showing the greatest difference (-6 points) from their straight counterparts. The findings held true even when accounting for variables like age, educational attainment and race and ethnicity.
Based on interviews conducted in June 2014 of 2,964 LGBT adults and 81,134 non-LGBT adults, the Well-Being Index assesses five areas: "purpose, social, financial, community and physical." Gallup notes, "Each of these well-being elements consists of multiple questions on related topics that Gallup uses to categorize respondents into three groups: thriving, struggling and suffering," with a higher overall score equating to better well-being.
One unifying factor in both the health insurance data and the Well-Being Index is, unsurprisingly, money. LGBT Americans are significantly less financially secure than their straight counterparts, with LGBT women showing the greatest difference from their straight counterparts.
"Financial well-being" in this first context is determined by questions about "standard of living, ability to afford basic necessities and financial worry." The findings, Gallup observes, "are consistent with research from UCLA's Williams Institute, which shows that the LGBT population is at a disproportionate risk for poverty and food insecurity."
Consistent with their outsized lack of health insurance, LGBT women also thrive less when it comes to overall physical well-being. This is in large part due to their disproportionate use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, also proven by the 2013 National Health Interview Survey, which "reported higher levels of smoking and alcohol consumption among LGB women than among non-LGB women, as well as elevated weight and psychological distress among bisexual women." This statistic is undoubtedly influenced by the fact that the LGBT community is less likely to be medically insured, and to therefore seek medical attention, than the non-LGBT community.
It's worth noting that the Obama administration has made a special effort to target the LGBT community during its Affordable Care Act push. While the Gallup poll suggests Obamacare has resulted in a drop in uninsured LGBT people, the intersectional nature of the problem, indicated by their low Well-Being Index scores, suggests we need a much more comprehensive approach to truly improve the lives of LGBT Americans, specifically LGBT women.