LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Older LGBT+ people in Britain are lonelier than their straight peers and in poorer health after facing a lifetime of prejudice, a think-tank said on Wednesday, calling for health care services to do more to include this vulnerable minority.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual over-50s were more likely to use drugs, smoke and drink alcohol frequently and - on the positive side - to exercise regularly, the International Longevity Centre (ILC) found in an analysis of data from 24 existing studies.
“There is the idea that people from disadvantaged, marginalized backgrounds experience longer-term stress,” Brian Beach, the report’s author, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, although he cautioned that causation was not yet proven.
Campaigners in Britain have expressed fears that health and social care does not take the specific needs of LGBT+ people into account, which could compound the higher rates of mental and physical ill health they experience.
Older gay and bisexual men were greatly impacted by the HIV epidemic due to the loss of friends and partners, more likely to have attempted suicide and to have a chronic illness such as diabetes, the report found.
They were also less satisfied with life, while many were afraid about being the first generation to age while taking drugs to suppress HIV.
Fear of discrimination could stop some older LGBT+ people from seeking medical help, making it less likely their health problems are spotted before they become serious, Breach said.
Older people’s sexuality and identity is often invisible or denied in social care settings, with staff refusing to acknowledge same-sex relationships or trivializing the loss of a partner, the study said.
A 2011 report by British LGBT+ charity Stonewall found 50 percent of older LGBT+ people were uncomfortable being out to care home staff.
LGBT+ people with dementia may think they are living in a more homophobic past while many care workers in Britain come from socially-conservative countries that outlaw same-sex relations.
Britain’s health services need to improve equality and diversity training and collect better data on the health of LGBT+ communities, especially transgender people, Breach said.