Time to recognise sexual orientation as a social determinant of health

Jed Horner and Nick J Roberts
Med J Aust 2014; 200 (3): . || doi: 10.5694/mja13.10464
Published online: 17 February 2014

A recent Senate Committee report should serve as a catalyst for further action

The outcome of a recent Senate Community Affairs References Committee inquiry into Australia’s response1 to the World Health Organization’s report on the social determinants of health2 makes for welcome reading, particularly for lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians. Encouragingly, the Senate Committee has acknowledged what many of us already know — that sexual orientation, conceived of as the dynamic interaction of attraction, behaviour and identity, functions as a social determinant of health.

  • 1 Australian Human Rights Centre, Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW.


Competing interests:

Jed Horner is currently employed as Policy and Project Officer for the New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.

  • 1. Senate Community Affairs References Committee. Australia’s domestic response to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Commission on Social Determinants of Health report “Closing the gap within a generation”. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, 2013.
  • 2. Commission on Social Determinants of Health. Closing the gap in a generation: health equity through action on the social determinants of health. Final report. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2008.
  • 3. Logie C. The case for the World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health to address sexual orientation. Am J Public Health 2012; 102: 1243-1246.
  • 4. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. A/HRC/19/41. Geneva: Human Rights Council, 2011.
  • 5. Australian Human Rights Commission. Addressing sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity discrimination: consultation report. Sydney: AHRC, 2011.
  • 6. Ritter A, Matthew-Simmons F, Carragher N. Prevalence of and interventions for mental health and alcohol and other drug problems among the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community: a review of the literature. Drug Policy Modelling Program monograph no. 23. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, 2012.
  • 7. Hillier L, Jones T, Monagle M, et al. Writing themselves in 3: the third national study on the sexual health and wellbeing of same sex attracted and gender questioning young people. Melbourne: La Trobe University, 2010.
  • 8. Australian Social Inclusion Board indicators working group. A compendium of social inclusion indicators: how’s Australia faring? Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2009.
  • 9. Horner J, Ameratunga SN. Monitoring immigrant health and wellbeing in New Zealand: addressing the tyranny of misleading averages. Aust Health Rev 2012; 36: 390-393.


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