The Fenway Institute has published a new paper highlighting the unique behavioral health challenges that face LGBT seniors. Titled “Meeting the Behavioral Health Needs of LGBT Older Adults,” this piece looks at how a lifetime a stigma and discrimination can often result in adverse behavioral health outcomes for elder LGBT people. Fenway Institute staff Hilary Goldhammer, SM, Lisa Krinsky, MSW, and Alex S. Keuroghlian, MD, MPH co-authored this paper.
As the authors note, cumulative stressful circumstances of living as a stigmatized sexual or gender minority person can contribute to negative health behaviors and outcomes, such as smoking, hypertension, disability, depression, and suicidal ideation. The theory of minority stress posits that chronic and traumatic exposures to anti-LGBT prejudice and discrimination, ranging from subtle disapproval to violent victimization, can cause high stress levels and maladaptive coping that ultimately lead to psychological, behavioral, and physical health morbidity. Many LGBT older adults have a particular vulnerability to minority stress, having grown up before the LGBT rights movement began.
“In this article, we offer recommendations and resources for promoting psychological health among LGBT older adults by attending to the historical and cultural forces that affect LGBT health, and by implementing inclusive policies and programming,” said Dr. Keuroghlian, Director of Education and Training Programs for The Fenway Institute. “We also offer suggestions for advancing research and policy to help achieve greater health equity for LGBT older adults.”
More research is needed to explore the role of cognitive impairment on mood disorders among LGBT older people, and to study the intersection of LGBT identity with race, ethnicity, and poverty among older adults experiencing behavioral health problems. Additionally, the authors recommend translational research to examine the impact of implementing behavioral health care competency standards and programs tailored for LGBT seniors.
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