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LGB adults may be at greater risk from COVID-19 due to higher prevalence of underlying health conditions

CDC researchers found that “sexual minority persons… have higher self-reported prevalences of several underlying health conditions associated with severe outcomes from COVID-19 than do heterosexual persons, both in the overall population and among racial/ethnic minority groups.”

This illustration is a representation of kindness and camaraderie, showing groceries being delivered to different homes in need. Image created by Joystick Interactive. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives - help stop the spread of COVID-19 in collaboration with Talenthouse.

The odds of contracting a severe case of COVID-19 may be greater for adults who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual than for heterosexuals.

This is according to a report – “Sexual Orientation Disparities in Risk Factors for Adverse COVID-19–Related Outcomes, by Race/Ethnicity — Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States, 2017–2019” by Kevin C. Heslin, PhD and Jeffrey E. Hall, PhD; and appeared in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report – released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In the report, the researchers found that “sexual minority persons… have higher self-reported prevalences of several underlying health conditions associated with severe outcomes from COVID-19 than do heterosexual persons, both in the overall population and among racial/ethnic minority groups.”

For the report, CDC researchers combined data from three years of health-related telephone surveys (2017-2019) conducted in up to 31 US states that included a question about sexual orientation. There were 643,956 survey participants, and 4.7% identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

The report, however, noted that the number of respondents identifying as transgender or nonbinary was too small for reliable estimates.

The report found that there is disparity, and this existed across all the underlying conditions and behaviors for LGBT people, although not equally.

The top 11 in ranked order were:

  • current asthma sufferers
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • kidney disease, current smokers
  • past asthma sufferers
  • stroke
  • cancer
  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • hypertension

The report stressed: “Because of their sexual orientation, sexual minority persons experience stigmatization and discrimination that can increase vulnerabilities to illness and limit the means to achieving optimal health and well-being through meaningful work and economic security, routine and critical health care, and relationships in which sexual orientation and gender identity can be openly expressed. Persons who are members of both sexual minority and racial/ethnic minority groups might therefore experience a convergence of distinct social, economic, and environmental disadvantages that increase chronic disease disparities and the risk for adverse COVID-19–related outcomes.”

The researchers recommended the inclusion in discussions of the intersections of sexual orientation and race/ethnicity, deemed “critical to ensuring health equity for all, including subpopulations whose circumstances often remain uncaptured despite acknowledgments of their distinct importance and needs.”

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“Because of longstanding social inequities and higher prevalences of several underlying health conditions, sexual minority populations might be vulnerable to COVID-19 acquisition and associated severe outcomes, and this vulnerability might be magnified when coupled with other demographic characteristics such as race/ethnicity,” they added.

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