October 15, 2018

Add Health data help researchers understand health disparities facing LGBTQ community

Posted October 17, 2018

Research consistently shows that members of the LGBTQ community face health disparities compared to their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts. We need to know how we can better measure these disparities and through which specific pathways these disparities are generated. Three Add Health based studies published this year focus on these questions.

Lamb, Nogg, Rooney, & Blashill challenged past studies which found a negative association between religious activity and hypertension by introducing sexual orientation as an independent variable. As the authors hypothesized, sexual orientation moderated the association between religious activity and hypertension. More religious activity was linked to lower blood pressure among heterosexuals, but homosexual respondents with higher levels of religious activity also had higher blood pressure. In other words, for sexual minorities, religiosity may be a risk factor for hypertension.

Oi & Wilkinson delved into the relationship between same-sex experiences (SSE) and suicidal ideation. Their study focused on whether suicidal ideations varied when considering the time of first SSE. As expected, the results showed that individuals with SSE are at a higher risk of suicidal ideation compared to individuals without any SSE. Additionally, their study showed that sexual minority women who had their first-time SSE in adulthood had a slower rate of decline in suicidal ideation compared to sexual minority women who had SSEs in adolescence and adulthood. Women with SSE in adulthood only experience higher levels of suicidal ideation for a longer period in their lives compared to other groups.

Conron, Goldberg, & Halpern studied the difference in socioeconomic status (SES) by sexual orientation. Overall, sexual minorities faced more socioeconomic inequities. Among males, sexual minorities were more likely to be college graduates than heterosexuals but were also more likely to have lower incomes. The authors argue that SES should be considered as a pathway for sexual orientation health inequalities.

Add Health Data

All of these studies utilize the rich contextual data available in Add Health to contribute to sexual minority research. A 5-year, NIH funded project hopes to further LGBTQ research by adding new data to Add Health from a subset of sexual and gender minorities. Co-principle investigator, Carolyn Halpern said, “These unique data will provide an unprecedented opportunity for Add Health Users to study the intersection of sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic factors and health in a population-based sample across the life course.” Read more about the study: Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity, Socioeconomic Status, and Health across the Life Course.

Information about this and other future data releases will be distributed via the Add Health listserv. To subscribe, and request that you be added to the list.

Quote from Gillings School of Global Public Health News.


Lamb KM, Nogg KA, Rooney BM, Blashill AJ. Organizational religious activity, hypertension, and sexual orientation: Results from a nationally representative sample. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2018.

Oi K, Wilkinson L. Trajectories of suicidal ideation from adolescence to adulthood: Does the history of same-sex experience matter? Archives of Sexual Behavior. 2018.

Conron KJ, Goldberg SK, Halpern CT. Sexual orientation and sex differences in socioeconomic status: a population-based investigation in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 2018.