When it comes to stress or depression during the holiday season, lesbians tend to feel both at higher levels than their heterosexual counterparts.

In a new survey conducted by Harris Interactive in the US, four out of five (80%) of lesbian adults say they tend to feel more stressed around the holidays while 64% of the heterosexual women surveyed said they tend to feel more stressed. Additionally, while half (51%) of lesbians said they tend to feel depressed around the holidays, only 36% of heterosexual women said they did.

“Estrangement from family, marginalisation within and isolation from society, separation from children (sometimes due to custody battles), and inadequate access to culturally sensitive health care practitioners are all factors that can adversely affect mood during a season so identified with ‘family’ activities and ‘belonging,'” said Dr. Linda Spooner, Chair of The Mautner Project’s Board of Directors and a practicing physician in Washington, D.C.

“Stress and depression have major impacts on quality of life, workplace productivity and leisure activity, as well as on development and management of such conditions as hypertension and other cardiovascular disease,” continued Spooner.

“In addition, sleep disorders, asthma, anxiety, treatments for cancer, recovery from surgery and perhaps the development of illnesses such as diabetes are also impacted.”

“More research and more funding for lesbian health initiatives would enable the community to gauge where lesbians are found on the health issues continuum, and further advance health and wellness for this population,” said Spooner.

“For lesbians, the baseline levels of stress and depressive feelings are often higher even before the holidays begin and the causes of those stress levels should be more specifically identified and addressed,” said Colleen Dermody, Vice President of Witeck-Combs Communications.

“We know from past polls that isolation, stigma and the potential for discrimination have been major obstacles for lesbians and gays seeking appropriate health care …”

Smoking: A Health Factor for Lesbians Too, Survey Finds

In addition to stress and depression the survey also asked several questions about smoking habits. When asked if they smoked, 25% of lesbians said they were smokers compared to 19% of heterosexual women who said they were smokers. When asked how likely it is that they would try to quit smoking in the next 12 months, only 23% of lesbians said they were vs. 50% of heterosexual women.

“The smoking rates among the lesbian population in this country are abysmal,” said Dr. Spooner. “We have not done enough to help lesbians quit. Nearly all of the studies on smoking have been conducted only among the heterosexual population so we do not really know why the lesbian smoking rate is greater or why lesbians are so much less likely to consider quitting.”

The survey of 2,625 US adults aged 18 or older was conducted online between November 7 and 13, 2007 by Harris Interactive, a global market research and consulting firm, in conjunction with Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc., a strategic public relations and marketing communications firm with special expertise in the GLBT market.

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