As National LGBT Health Awareness Week and NY LGBT Health Awareness Month comes to a close, we want our readers to know more about the health issues affecting our older adult population and how getting educated can help! Also, don't forget that open enrollment closes in just a few days! Get covered today! If you need assistance, be sure to check out SAGE's webpage on the Affordable Care Act for LGBT older adults.
While many LGBT older people engage in health behaviors that promote good health, research also shows that many LGBT older people engage disproportionately in behaviors that put them at risk, such as smoking, excessive drinking and non-prescribed drug use. In addition, many LGBT older adults delay care out of fear of discrimination from health providers, which means that illnesses go undetected until crisis hits. And more broadly, a general lack of data collection and research on LGBT elder health issues has left the field without the information they need to develop effective interventions that address LGBT older people's unique health realities.
Did you know that:
- According to a 2011 national study on LGBT older adults, high percentages of LGBT older people struggle with health conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol, arthritis, cataracts, asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and more. Nineteen percent of LGBT elders reported having had at least one type of cancer. Read the full report. ▶
- LGBT elders also deal disproportionately with mental health concerns, which is a primary risk factor for social isolation. According to a 2011 national health study, more than half of the respondents have been told by a doctor that they have depression; 39 percent have seriously thought of suicide; and 53 percent feel isolated from others.
- Research shows that LGBT elders engage in health behaviors that both promote good health and put them at risk. According to The Aging and Health Report: "The majority of LGBT older adults in the project are sexually active and most engage in moderate exercise, wellness activities, and participate in health screenings. Yet, some report high-risk health behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking and non-prescribed drug use. Especially at high risk are those age 50 – 64. Their rates of smoking, excessive drinking, non-prescribed drug use, and HIV risk behaviors are significantly higher than those age 65 and older." Read our resources on diabetes, falls prevention, heart disease and HIV/AIDS.
- A lack of cultural competence regarding transgender people and their health needs, as well as bias and outright discrimination by providers, create serious barriers. These barriers, together with financial barriers, mean that many transgender older adults often avoid or delay seeking care. In addition, medically necessary care related to gender transition is often arbitrarily excluded from public and private insurance. Inability to access this care can contribute to declining health, and these exclusions are often also used to deny coverage for preventive and other medical care transgender older adults need. Read more on transgender health issues. ▶