the olds

Why Are Gay Seniors More Likely To Suffer Mental Problems + Isolation As They Age?

Know what sucks about growing old? Growing old. Know what sucks about growing old and being gay? You’re more likely to suffer isolation and mental anguish than breeders.

So conclude UCLA researchers who looked at data from more than 1,000 Californians aged 50-70. And while self-identifying gay adults were more likely to be better educated (and, it turns out, less racially diverse) than heterosexuals, they were also more likely to face more health issues.

Health differences were most common for men. Aging gay and bisexual men were 1.5 times more likely to rate their own health as fair or poor than were heterosexual men with similar demographics. They also had significantly higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, psychological distress and physical disability. And 50.5 percent of gay and bisexual men lived alone, compared to just 13.4 percent of their heterosexual counterparts. “They are in a particularly vulnerable situation,” [the study’s lead researcher Steven] Wallace said. “If you have a fall, if you need somebody to take you to the doctor, need somebody to help you with medications, that’s more of a challenge.”

The same was true for women. One in four lesbian and bisexual women lived alone, compared to one in five heterosexual women. The report found significantly higher rates of psychological distress, physical disability and self-reported health as fair or poor among lesbian and bisexual women.

The isolation can, to a degree, be explained by the fewer number of children gay seniors have. They may also be alienated from their family and lack intergenerational support. But what’s all this about the disproportionate rate of health issues?

Still, there were few differences between heterosexual, and lesbian, gay and bisexual adults in their access to and use of health care services. Gay and bisexual men delayed care or prescriptions and visited the emergency room at about the same rate as heterosexual men. However, they were 1.19 times more likely to have visited the doctor more than three times in the past year. But among lesbian and bisexual women, more than one in four reported delaying care – a rate 1.28 times greater than that of heterosexual women. They were also 1.09 times more likely to have had three or more doctor visits in the past year.

Help me figure this one out: Gays and lesbians are more likely to delay care, but also more likely to have made trips to the doctor. Which means … what? That even though gay seniors are putting off their medical needs, since they have more of them they’re seeking treatment more often?

[California Watch]