A study of older gay men, lesbians and bisexuals in California suggests that they have poorer health than their straight counterparts.

According to the data from the California Health Interview Survey, gay and bisexual men between 50 and 70 have higher rates of physical disability, diabetes and high blood pressure than straight men of the same age.

Older gay and bisexual men were 45 per cent more likely to report psychological distress and one in five said they were living with HIV.

Half lived alone, compared to just 13 per cent of straight men.

Lesbian and bisexual women also had poorer health, with higher rates of physical disability and psychological distress.

They were also more likely to live alone than straight women.

Steven P Wallace of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, who led the research, said: “Many aging LGB Californians do not have biological children or strong family support.

“Organisations that serve these communities need to take this into account and consider outreach and support mechanisms that enable these individuals to maintain their independence and ability to age safely and in good health.”

The study also found that older LGB people are slightly less likely to have health insurance, despite being more highly educated. It recommends that health care providers do more to increase awareness of LGB health issues.

“Access may be equal, but we know that quality of care for LGBs often isn’t,” said Susan Cochran, a co-author of the study.

“Attitudes are changing, but we still have to continue to push to eliminate discrimination and increase understanding of the rich and diverse life experiences of these individuals to improve the quality of the care they receive.”