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Sexual, gender minority health care workers have higher mental health issues related to COVID-19

Sexual and gender minority (SGM) health care workers reported significantly higher depression, anxiety, impact of COVID-19, and psychological distress.

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Sexual and gender minority (SGM) health care workers reported significantly higher depression, anxiety, impact of COVID-19, and psychological distress.

This is according to a study – “Mental Health Disparities Among Sexual and Gender Minority Frontline Health Care Workers During the Height of the COVID-19 Pandemic” – that appeared in LGBT Health.

The study – done by Hailey Wojcik, Aaron S. Breslow, Marla R. Fisher, Caryn R.R. Rodgers, Patryk Kubiszewski, and Vilma Gabbay – measured mental health disparities in a Bronx, New York sample of frontline health care workers collected from May to July 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study noted that “SGM frontline health care workers reported a disparately high burden of adverse mental health outcomes during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the SGM group had statistically higher odds for depression and anxiety, even when controlling for sociodemographic differences and COVID-19-related stressors. These disparities may be explained in part by differences in income (lower), age (younger), and experiencing COVID-19 stressors (increased likelihood of fear of infecting others with COVID-19 and lack of autonomy at work).”

Specifically:

  • significant bivariate associations between SGM status and gender, sexual orientation and annual income, with SGM health care workers significantly more likely to make $0–60,000 and less likely to make $100,000+; and age, with SGM participants skewing younger;
  • among COVID-19 stressors, SGM participants were significantly more likely to fear they may have COVID-19;
  • SGM health care workers remained at significantly higher odds for depression and anxiety, although no longer for impact of COVID-19 or psychological distress;

By adding to the growing literature on vulnerabilities for SGM people and health care workers during the pandemic, this study “echoes calls for affirming nuanced programming for SGM health care workers targeting depression, anxiety, impact of the pandemic, and psychological distress. This is especially urgent given both the continuing duration of the pandemic and the increase of SGM representation in medicine,” the researchers stressed.

They added: “Despite marketing campaigns declaring “we’re all in this together” and naming hospital workers “health care heroes,” COVID-19 and associated stressors disproportionately impacted marginalized groups, even among providers. This includes SGM health care workers… These findings bolster calls for affirming interventions to support SGM health care workers at hard-hit hospitals.”

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