“There is a lack of data in terms of health data for LGBT people,” says report author Lindsey Dawson, associate director of HIV policy at KFF, who notes that this poses a challenge for policymakers and researchers seeking to address the community’s health needs. “[In] doing our report, we’ve certainly sought to add to the knowledge base.”
Health conditions and provider experiences
Among the disparities highlighted in the findings is health status: LGBT respondents were more likely to report being in fair or poor health than their non-LGBT counterparts, and a higher share of LGBT people reported having an ongoing health condition that requires regular monitoring, medical care or medication.
Among LGBT adults 45 to 64, for example, more than three-quarters (77 percent) said they have a chronic health condition, compared to 54 percent of non-LGBT people in that age group.
The researchers also looked at LGBT respondents’ experiences with preventive health care. Thirty-five percent of LGBT women ages 40 to 64 reported having a mammogram in the past two years, compared to 64 percent of non-LGBT women of that age. (Screening guidelines vary, but mammograms are generally recommended every one or two years beginning at age 40.)
But some forms of care, including testing for sexually transmitted infections and HIV, were more common among older LGBT adults than their non-LGBT peers. LGBT respondents were also more likely to say they’ve had conversations with their health care provider about mental health and topics like housing security.
The report looked at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with nearly a quarter (24 percent) of LGBT people reporting that they have sought mental health care because of the pandemic, compared to 12 percent of non-LGBT respondents.
This finding echoes research from the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted this year, which showed that three-quarters (74 percent) of LGBT people reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health, compared to 49 percent of non-LGBT respondents.
“One thing to recognize is that many LGBT people experience underlying rates of significant mental health and substance use disparities,” Dawson says. “But we also found … that LGBT people experienced the pandemic differently in some ways … [and] other research has pointed to the fact that LGBT people are more likely to work in hard-hit industries.”
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