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Stigma, Mental Health, and Health Care Use Among Rural Sexual and Gender Minority Individuals

Jenkins WD, Walters S, Phillips II G, Green K, Fenner E, Bolinski R, Spenner A, Luckey G.

Health Education & Behavior

Sexual and gender minorities (SGM) frequently experience depression and health care-related stigma. Health care satisfaction is important for seeking care, but little is known about SGM health care satisfaction, and especially as it relates to depression among rural SGM. From May 25 to July 2, 2021, we surveyed rural Illinois (IL) individuals aged ≥18 years on the topics of demographics, depression, health care satisfaction, past health care experiences, internalized stigma, and victimization. Among the 398 respondents, the gender identity distribution included cisgender males and females (171 and 203, respectively) and transgender males and females (8 and 7, respectively), while sexual orientation included heterosexuals (114), gay/lesbians (143), and other orientations (141). Analyses were conducted with respect to both identity and orientation (and their interaction). In univariate analysis, transgender individuals were more likely than cisgender to screen positive for depression and less likely to report feeling accepted by their medical provider. Compared to heterosexual respondents, gay/lesbians and other orientations were more likely to screen positive for depression. In logistic regression, factors associated with increased risk of depression included nonheterosexual orientation and past poor health care experiences. In linear regression, factors most commonly associated with the seven satisfaction subscales include: sexual orientation, past poor experiences, and employment. There were significant differences in depression across both sexual orientation and gender identity, and in health care satisfaction by sexual orientation. Rural SGMs are more vulnerable to depression and less likely to report satisfactory care. As health care engagement is critical for screening and care adherence, engaging rural SGM in a routine and satisfactory fashion is needed.

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