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Sexual orientation discrimination, age discrimination associated with depression, anxiety

Sexual orientation discrimination and age discrimination were positively associated with depression and anxiety. Sexual orientation-specific and general aging concerns were also positively associated with depression and anxiety.

For those who are aging as sexual minorities (SM), discrimination has been positively associated with depression and anxiety. This is according to a study – “The Roles of Discrimination and Aging Concerns in the Mental Health of Sexual Minority Older Adults” by Brian A. Feinstein, Benjamin W. Katz, Isabel Benjamin, Taylor Macaulay, Christina Dyar, and Ethan Morgan – that appeared in LGBT Health.

Already, “SM older adults report poorer mental health than their heterosexual peers,” the researchers noted. And “while all older adults can experience age discrimination and other aging concerns (e.g. functional decline), SM older adults also experience sexual orientation-related discrimination and aging concerns (e.g. that they will have to be less open about their sexual orientation to get support as they age).”

For this study, 477 SM older adults (aged ≥50 years) completed an online survey in September 2021. The majority were gay/lesbian (83%), cisgender men (40%) or cisgender women (34%), and non-Latinx White (39%) or Latinx (34%). Analyses controlled for age, sexual orientation, gender identity, and race/ethnicity.

The researchers found:

  • sexual orientation discrimination and age discrimination were positively associated with depression and anxiety
  • a significant interaction indicated that sexual orientation discrimination was positively associated with anxiety at low, moderate, and high levels of age discrimination, but the association was strongest at the low level
  • sexual orientation-specific and general aging concerns were also positively associated with depression and anxiety
  • significant interactions indicated that sexual orientation-specific aging concerns were associated with higher depression and anxiety at low and moderate, but not high, levels of general aging concerns

For the researchers, to ensure that aging sexual minorities are also included in services, there needs to be a recognition that “a range of factors contribute to mental health among SM older adults and there are complex relationships between general and sexual orientation-specific factors.”

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