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New Research Snapshot developed by the Understanding Mental Health and Well-Being in Later Life project at PSSP explores the disparities between sexual minority and heterosexual older adults' mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is this research about?

Sexual minority individuals are people from diverse populations including, but not limited to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, queer, fluid, and asexual sexual orientation. This research takes a social ecological perspective in understanding how the well-being of sexual minority older adults has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by recognizing the multiple elements that can influence an individuals’ opportunities and outcomes. From this perspective, the researcher proposed that sexual minority older adults are likely to experience worse social and mental health impact during the pandemic than heterosexual older adults.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic research has shown that sexual minority older adults are more vulnerable to mental distress and poor health than heterosexual older adults due to interpersonal and institutional oppression and discrimination. The research proposes that the existing inequalities that affect the health and well-being of sexual minority older adults and make them more vulnerable may be exacerbated by the pandemic based on three potential factors:

  • sexual minority individuals are more likely to have pre-existing health conditions which could increase vulnerability to severe infection or death from COVID-19 and this increased health risk may lead to greater mental distress;
  • pandemic public health measures may disrupt networks of support and specialized health care services that sexual minority adults rely on (i.e. chosen families who live in different households or closures of and limited access to health care services and providers that are safe and known to sexual minority individuals);
  • although sexual minority older adults in the United States live in many different settings, a large majority of sexual minority individuals are concentrated in the cities that have seen the highest COVID-19 case counts and death related to COVID-19. This includes California, Florida, Texas, New York and other major cities within these states.

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If you're interested in resources like this one, consider joining the Understanding Mental Health and Well-Being in Later Life Community of Interest (CoI)! The CoI is a dedicated space for service providers working with older adults to connect with other health service providers and share best practices and resources.

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