The Feasibility of Using Electronic Health Data for Research on Small Populations. Population #2: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People


The health and health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are not well documented. Even basic information is hard to come by. As a recent Institute of Medicine report puts it, “it has been an ongoing challenge for researchers to collect reliable data from sufficiently large samples to assess the demographic characteristics of LGBT populations.”82 This project mainly focuses on the health and health needs of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. The transgender population has a host of separate issues around classification, health problems, and provider relations that are not well researched.83

To start with the basics, federal and non-federal survey-based estimates of numbers of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have varied by gender, over time, and according to survey methods and question wording (see TableI.4 in the Appendix to Part I). Recent estimates puts the percentage of the adult population who identify as homosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual at about 3.5%).84 No such information is available about transgender people. The percentage of adults who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, or bisexual to survey researchers is smaller than the percentage who report having same sex partners or who report some desire for or attraction to a person of the same sex. The small size of LGBT populations and the sensitivity of results to the wording of questions are among the challenges to studying health issues in these populations via survey research. However, there are many indications that such research is needed.

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