Differences in Mental, Cognitive, and Functional Health by Sexual Orientation Among Older Women: Analysis of the 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.Gerontologist. 2019 07 16; 59(4):749-759.G
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES
This study addresses a gap in the knowledge base regarding whether there are differences in mental, cognitive, and functional health between sexual minority women aged 65 and older and their heterosexual counterparts, as well as whether disparities are moderated by age, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
This study analyzes 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data from 21 states. Multivariate logistic regression is used to test the hypotheses.
Compared to heterosexual women, lesbian/gay women aged 65 and older report worse functional health and bisexual women report worse cognitive health and more difficulties with instrumental activities of daily living. Disparities are particularly present for women in their late 60s and those in their 70s. While the likelihood of a depression diagnosis tends to be lower for heterosexual women with higher income, the inverse is true of sexual minority women. Additionally, sexual minority women with less education have lower odds of frequent mental distress and activity limitations than those with some college education. Sexual minority women of color have significantly lower odds of frequent mental distress, activity limitations, and use of special equipment compared to white sexual minority women.
DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS
Findings indicate a need for gerontological services that provide support to older sexual minority women, particularly in relation to cognitive and functional health. Future research is needed to understand risk and protective factors contributing to these disparities, including forms of resilience that occur among older sexual minority women of color.