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Older LGBT+ Adults Have Higher Rates of Kidney Disease than Heterosexual Peers

Chicago (February 13, 2023) – According to a new study by researchers from NORC at the University of Chicago, The Fenway Institute, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), sexual minority (LGBT+) men and women over age 50 are more likely to have kidney disease compared to their heterosexual peers.

The study, published online in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, found that 6.23 percent of older sexual minority men had kidney disease compared to 4.81 percent of heterosexual men, while 5.97 percent of older sexual minority women reported a kidney disease diagnosis compared with 4.88 percent of heterosexual women. In addition, the study found a higher incidence of risk factors for kidney disease—smoking, activity limitations, adverse health outcomes, and limited access to health care, housing, and employment—among older LGBT+ people.

“This is the first analysis to our knowledge to document the elevated prevalence of kidney disease among older adults in the U.S. who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or a sexual orientation other than heterosexual,” said Sean Cahill, coauthor and director of Health Policy Research at the Fenway Institute. “Even after adjusting for demographics and risk factors, older gay and bisexual men were nearly twice as likely as older heterosexual men to report a kidney disease diagnosis.”

Despite well-documented disparities in chronic kidney disease risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension in LGBT+ adults, there have been limited studies examining kidney disease prevalence in this population.

“These results support increasing access to screening for kidney disease risk factors in this population, providing culturally responsive care, and addressing societal drivers of vulnerability in older LGBT+ adults,” added Mollie Hertel, coauthor and senior research scientist at NORC.

Study results were developed using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The BRFSS introduced sexual orientation and gender identity questions in 2014. NORC analyzed BRFSS data from 2014 to 2019 to determine self-reported kidney disease prevalence in LGBT+ older adults (50+) compared to their heterosexual peers.

“This research suggests that national surveys such as the BRFSS should work toward developing standardized, consistent, and tested kidney disease nomenclature to ensure it captures an accurate estimate of kidney disease prevalence for future surveillance efforts,” said Meghana Chandra, coauthor and research scientist at NORC.

The study is scheduled to be published in print versions of the journal later this year.

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