Health Vulnerabilities to COVID-19 Among LGBT Adults in California

May 2020

Using data from the California Health Interview Survey, this study examines the health characteristics that may increase vulnerability to COVID-19 for LGBT adults living in California.

  • Kathryn K. O’Neill
    Policy Analyst
The CDC has identified asthma, diabetes, and heart disease as conditions which elevate individuals’ risk.
These health conditions are more common among LGBT populations compared to their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts.
Social isolation, financial strain, and job loss are associated with elevated risk for suicide, and COVID-19 may exacerbate these factors.
Data Points
1.7 million
LGBT adults live in California
of all LGBT adults in the U.S. live in California

Executive Summary

This report describes characteristics of LGBT adults in California, a population of nearly 1.7 million, in relation to their vulnerability to illness and other health consequences stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. A separate report examines the vulnerability to economic disruption experienced by LGBT Californians due to efforts to contain COVID-19.1 Data were extracted from the 2015-2018 California Health Interview Survey through the AskCHIS platform.2 Thus, information reported here does not reflect recent changes in health related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Key findings about LGBT adults in California include the following.

In the four years covered by the survey:

  • 361,000 had fair or poor health.
  • 134,000 did not have health insurance.
  • 231,000 had problems paying for their own or a family member’s medical bill.
  • 150,000 had delayed or forgone needed medical care because of cost, lack of insurance, or another insurance-related reason.
  • Many LGBT adult Californians had health conditions which elevate their risk for serious illness from COVID-19.3 
    • More than 114,000 GBT adults live with HIV.4,5
    • 216,000 LGBT adult Californians had asthma.
    • 114,000 had diabetes.
    • 81,000 had heart disease.
  • 304,000 were current smokers.
  • 262,000 lived alone.
  • Over 500,000 had a history of suicidal ideation.

Efforts to monitor the health impact of COVID-19 on Californians must include a focus on vulnerable populations, including LGBT adults, to ensure that interventions are targeted to meet the particular needs of different communities.

Download the full report

Health Vulnerabilities to COVID-19 Among LGBT Adults in California

O’Neill, K. K. (2020) Economic vulnerabilities to COVID-19 among LGBT Adults in California. Los Angeles, CA: Williams Institute.

UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, Los Angeles, CA. AskCHIS 2015-2018. Available at Exported on April 1, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). People who are at higher risk for severe illness. Accessed online 4/2/2020. AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2 ronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fspecific-groups%2Fhigh-risk-complications.html

The California Department of Public Health, Center for Infectious Diseases, Office of AIDS. (2019). The Continuum of HIV Care—California, 2017. HIV_CareContinuumFactSheet_AllLiving.pdf

The California Department of Public Health, Center for Infectious Diseases, Office of AIDS. (2019). California HIV Surveillance Report – 2017. California%20HIV%20Surveillance%20Report%20-%202017.pdf