UNMC News

Study finds workforce discrimination prevalent in LGBT community

Higher incidence of depression symptoms also seen

An online survey of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community in Nebraska has determined that nearly a third of respondents had experienced some job discrimination because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

The information was gleaned from a 67-question survey that was conducted through the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health. A total of 770 people responded to the survey, including 412 people from Omaha.

The information was released today as an addendum to the 2011 Midlands LGBT Needs Assessment Community Report that was issued last June. Conducted by researchers with the Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative (MSHRC), the aim of the community report was to assess the physical, mental, social and sexual health of LGBT persons in Nebraska.

It was headed by Christopher Fisher, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UNMC College of Public Health. Dr. Fisher was assisted by two University of Nebraska at Omaha faculty members - Jay Irwin, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology, and Jason Coleman, Ph.D., MSPH, assistant professor of health, physical education and recreation. In addition, several community-based organizations provided assistance.

Dr. Fisher said the incidence of job discrimination is "sizeable."

He noted that respondents who indicated at least one experience of job-related discrimination were more likely to have significantly higher depressive symptoms on the standardized depression scale than those who did not experience job-related discrimination.

"We cannot infer from this data that the job-related discrimination led to greater depressive symptoms," Dr. Fisher said. "However, there is sufficient evidence in other studies to suggest that discrimination, regardless of where it happens, is strongly related to subsequent bouts of increased depression."

When people suffer from depression, Dr. Fisher said it correlates to increased illnesses and reduced productivity in the workplace.

"Research is all about identifying issues that impact a person's health and well-being," Dr. Fisher said. "Since people spend a large part of their day at work, workplace discrimination can really have a profound effect on them."

The addendum report is available at the MSHRC website, http://www.unmc.edu/publichealth/mshrc.htm.

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