Gay and lesbian seniors are being given unequal access to health services, according to researchers.

A study by The McGill School of Social Work in Canada claims that elderly people in the gay and lesbian community are discriminated against by the very health care organisations and social services committed to supporting them.

Researchers found that community health care providers commonly held discriminatory attitudes that negatively impacted the well-being of the aging gay population.

“It cannot be understated that gay and lesbian seniors who grew up prior to the era of gay liberation face considerable obstacles to accessing health care,” said McGill School of Social Work professor Shari Brotman.

“In addition, partners, children and friends who provide unpaid support to gay and lesbian seniors are often also exposed to marginalisation and discrimination by providers and contemporaries.”

The work revealed that many elderly citizens feared telling their doctors that they were gay and some said they were mistreated after their sexual orientation was discovered.

However, it was also found that carers and health care providers had a mainly positive attitude towards homosexuality and it didn’t make a difference to their job.

The study, based on 90 interviews with the elderly, caregivers and health care and social service providers, was conducted in conjunction with research partners in Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax, and was funded by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).