Health of aging LGB people in California similar to straight older adults

For Immediate Release
August 30, 2018

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Rachel Dowd
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Among LGB people, bisexuals and Hispanics experience disparities in health and well-being.

A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that, in contrast to previous studies, LGB older adults in California are as healthy as their straight counterparts. However, among LGB older adults, bisexuals and Hispanics/Latinos exhibit poorer health and well-being than their lesbian and gay and non-Hispanic peers.

Researchers analyzed data from the 2015-2016 California Health Interview Survey. LGB and straight older adults in California had similar experiences in terms of where they lived (urban or rural areas), access to health care, overall health and specific health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. However, one of the significant differences between the groups was that LGB older adults were more likely to live alone.

“This study cannot explain why aging people in California fare better than aging LGB people in other states or even what had been recorded in California a decade ago. I believe that California’s progressive health policies and greater protections for LGBT people have resulted in health benefits for aging LGB people,” said study author Ilan H. Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “This is consistent with other studies in the past few years that have shown health benefits related to LGBT-affirmative laws and policies.”

According to the study, 3.5 percent of adults in California age 50 and older identify as LGB. Approximately 268,800 identify as lesbian or gay and 163,000 as bisexual.

Key findings:

  • Hispanic/Latino LGB adults aged 65 and older were more likely than non-Hispanic LGB people of the same age to have diabetes, experience psychological distress, and have nowhere to go for health care when they were sick.
  • Hispanic/Latino LGB adults aged 50 to 64 were less likely than non-Hispanic LGB people of the same age to have health insurance.
  • Hispanic/Latino LGB adults aged 50 and older were less likely than non-Hispanic LGB people of the same age to use the internet and to use it as a resource for health information.
  • Hispanic/Latino LGB adults aged 50 and older were more likely than non-Hispanic LGB people of the same age to live 200% below the federal poverty level.
  • Bisexuals aged 65 and older were less likely than gay men and lesbians of the same age to have been born in the US and to own their own home.
  • Bisexuals aged 65 and older were nearly twice as likely as lesbians and gay men of the same age to live 200% below the federal poverty level.
  • Bisexuals aged 65 and older were significantly less likely than gay men and lesbians of the same age to use the internet to find health information online.

“These findings demonstrate the importance of assessing differences among LGB sub-populations in addition to looking at differences between LGB and straight people,” said lead author, Soon Kyu Choi, Project Manager at the Williams Institute. “Disparities between aging Hispanic and non-Hispanic LGB residents prevail and require special attention from LGBT service providers, policy makers and researchers.”

The California Health Interview Survey is a representative survey. 2015-2016 was the first time the survey asked people over 70 about their sexual identity and behavior.

“Older LGB adults are a population that is often missing from population data, rendering them invisible,” said study co-author Krystal R. Kittle, Research Project Coordinator at the Williams Institute. “The inclusion of LGB adults over the age 70 provides insight into the experiences of those we don’t often hear from.”

Read the full report.

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