Medical Literature on Non-Heterosexuality

Medical Literature on Non-Heterosexuality

Below can be found summary findings of a variety of research papers looking at a wide range of health markers in non-heterosexual populations. The aim is not to provide our own analysis, but simply to present research already conducted in the various fields. The causes for the health disparities in non-heterosexual individuals are discussed in journal articles themselves.

NB: Summary descriptions provided are often, but not always, taken from the abstracts or bodies of the journal articles linked. 


Mental Health

  • Emotional Stress and Eating Disorders: Analysis of 524 lesbians, 143 bisexual and 637 heterosexual women found that bisexual women and lesbians experienced more emotional stress as teenagers than did heterosexual women, with bisexual women more than twice as likely to have had an eating disorder as compared to lesbians. Read study here.
  • Suicidal Ideation and Attempts: Lesbians who were not out and bisexual women who were out were 2-2.5 times more likely to experience suicidal ideation in the past 12 months. Lesbians and bisexual women who were not out were more likely to have had a suicide attempt compared to heterosexual women. Lesbians used psychotherapy for depression more commonly than did heterosexual or bisexual women. Read study here.
  • Anxiety, Depression and Mental Health Support: Bisexual women reported the worst mental health status in all areas studied including anxiety, anger, depressive symptoms, self-injury, and suicidal ideation and attempts. Both bisexual women and lesbians had a far greater likelihood of having these mental health issues when compared with heterosexual women. Lesbians and bisexual women utilise significantly more mental health services (with the exception of clergy) than heterosexual women. Read study here.
  • Mental Health as Compared to Heterosexual Populations: Risk for depression and anxiety disorders (over a period of 12 months or a lifetime) on meta-analyses (analyses of all the scientific data available) were at least 1.5 times higher in lesbian, gay and bisexual people (the range of relative increase in risk when compared with the heterosexual population was 1.54-2.58) and alcohol and other substance dependence over 12 months was also 1.5 times higher, with lesbians and bisexual women particularly at risk of substance abuse. Read study here.
  • LGBT Youth at Higher Risk of Sex Trafficking Crimes:Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth are subject to adversity from an early age, which leaves them especially vulnerable to sex traffickers. Health care providers lack the resources, education, protocols, and policies required to protect these youth members of society. Read study here.


Sexually-Transmitted Infections

  • STIs in MSM vs General Population: Men who have sex with men (MSM) are more frequently diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) compared to the general population. Read study here.
  • Causes of Higher STI rate: Higher infectious rate partially due to more frequent penetrative and receptive sex; exposure of highly receptive tissues for pathogen transmission like anorectal mucosa, the inner surface of the foreskin and the urethral meatus. Read study here.
  • HIV and Syphilis rates: Homosexual male HIV/early syphilis rates are more than 40 times those of their heterosexual counterparts. Read study here.
  • Sexual Behaviour Comparison: MSM initiated sexual activity at slightly younger ages than heterosexuals, reported larger numbers of recent partners, continued to form new partnerships later into adulthood, and displayed more age-disassortative mixing and sex partner concurrency. These  sexual behavior patterns likely help explain the high HIV/STI rates among MSM, despite higher condom use in MSM. Read study here.
  • Syphilis Prevalence in MSM: In England between 2013 and 2014 the overall incidence of infectious syphilis increased by 33% and is mainly seen in the MSM population. Ready study here.
  • Neurosyphilis in MSM: In HIV-infected individuals: 1) syphilis antibody responses were less reliable; 2) progression to the next stage of syphilis, including neurosyphilis, occurred earlier despite adequate therapy. Most cases of neurosyphilis in HIV-infected individuals comprise acute syphilitic meningitis requiring urgent treatment. Read studies here and here.



  • Pre-Cancerous Dysplasia: Anal cancer is preceded by the pre-cancerous condition, Anal Intra-epithelial dysplasia and neoplasm (AIN); treatment even at these early stages carries significant complications. Intra-anal dysplasia, especially in patients with extensive circumferential disease, is a therapeutic challenge because of possible severe posttreatment side effects, such as anal stenosis, incontinence, scarring or disfiguration. Read study here.
  • Anal Cancer: Particularly in HIV-positive men, annual anal cancer incidences have increased dramatically, from 11 to 144 per 100,000, and the relative risk of anal carcinoma development in HIV-positive men on anti-HIV Highly Affective Anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) has been reported to be 352 times higher compared with HIV-negative men. Read studies here and here.
  • HPV and Anal Cancer: Men who have sex with men (MSM) living with HIV are at high risk of infection with high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV), the cause of anal cancer. In fact, non-cervical cancers according to one literature search using Medline and key words to identify papers published in English or French between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2011 reported that a substantial proportion of the economic burden of HPV-related cancers was driven by men (∼70%). Read studies here and here.
  • Breast Cancer: A study of 693 females demonstrated that women in same-sex couples, compared to women in different-sex relationships, had greater age-adjusted risk for fatal breast cancer by approximately three-fold (RR=3.2, CI 1.01-10.21). Read study here.


Personality and Behavioural Development

  • Effect of Homosexual Parenting: Looking at the impact of gay fathers on children, nine studies showed evidence that children raised by gay parents were (a) more apt to adopt homosexual interests and activities, (b) more apt to report sexual confusion, (c) more apt to be socially disturbed, (d) more apt to abuse substances, (e) less apt to get married, (f) more apt to have difficulty in attachment and loving relationships, (g) less religious and more unconventionally religious, (h) more apt to have emotional difficulties, (i) more frequently exposed to parental molestation, and (j) prone to more frequent sexual acting out. Read study here.
  • Effect of Homosexual Parenting on future Sexuality: In studies concerning gay fathers, some findings indicate no differences in sexual orientation, socialization, or psychological outcomes in children of gay fathers compared to children of heterosexual fathers. However, a review of the literature and the analysis of the total sum of data shows that children of gay parents are at a much higher risk of later homosexuality. Read study here.