Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community regularly face health disparities because of violence, stigma, and discrimination. Researchers at Aging with Pride: National Health, Aging, and Sexuality/Gender Study1 have set out to examine the consequences of those disparities with the help of the LGBT+ National Aging Research Center.
The federally funded project follows 2450 LGBT adults age 50 to more than 100 years. Approximately 13% of older LGBT adults report experiencing healthcare denial or receiving poor health care because of sexual or gender identity. Of transgender adults, 40% experienced the same treatment.
“We’ve found a constellation of high-risk factors, including a history of victimization and not getting access to the services they need,” said Karen I. Fredriksen Goldsen, PhD, principal National Health, Aging, and Sexuality/Gender Study investigator and professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work.2 “Not everyone is experiencing poor health,” she added. “In fact, most are doing very well. But we wanted to understand the poor health outcomes in this community.”
According to the collected data, a number of disparities exist among subgroups of the LGBT community. For example, older LGBT adults who identify as Hispanic and African American are more likely to have HIV, and older LGBT Native American adults are less likely to have cancer but more likely to have poor physical health, disability, obesity, asthma, and cardiovascular disease.
Lisa Krinsky, MSW, director of the LGBT Aging Project at The Fenway Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, shared some of the work the Institute is doing to treat the LGBT community, citing a recently launched video conferencing pilot program being used to reduce social isolation among LGBT adults. Additionally, The Fenway Institute is working to address the health of LGBT people with HIV in older age. “We still think of it as a young person’s disease,” she said, noting that as a result of the overall success of antiretroviral therapies, people with HIV are living longer. Currently, adults 50 years and older account for 45% of the population living with diagnosed HIV.
“People are very interested in learning how to improve health in the community,” said Dr Fredriksen Goldsen. “They really want to reduce disparities and create better health opportunities for the next generation.”
- LGBT+ National Aging Research Center. Aging With Pride: National Health, Aging and Sexuality/Gender Study. Age-pride.org. 2018. Accessed June 27, 2018.
- American Heart Association News. Aging LBGT seniors a ‘major public health issue.’ https://news.heart.org/aging-lgbt-seniors-a-major-public-health-issue. June 26, 2018. Accessed June 27, 2018.