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Health inequalities continue to disadvantage older LGBT people, analysis of data reveals

Despite progress in recent years towards equality, older LGBT people continue to experience poorer health outcomes than their heterosexual counterparts.

The research reveals that a lifetime of prejudice and stigma is leading to worse physical and mental health, poorer access to health and social care, as well as greater levels of social isolation and loneliness among older LGBT people.

New analysis by the International Longevity Centre UK, based on data from 24 different surveys, demonstrates that the odds of lesbian, gay, or bisexual men and women experiencing poor self-rated health are around 1.2 times higher than for heterosexual people, with poor self-rated health being a strong predictor of future mortality.

Moreover, older non-heterosexual men are more likely to be living with a long-term limiting illness and have lower overall life satisfaction.

While the NHS and other health bodies have clear duties around tackling health inequalities, hospitals still do not routinely collect data related to patients’ sexual orientation, which risks the needs of LGBT people being overlooked as they age.

Moreover, there is still a tendency for training of health and care professionals to focus on treating all patients the same rather than recognising the specific needs of different groups.

The report calls for a renewed focus on ensuring that mainstream health and care provision is consciously inclusive, so that services offer environments where older LGBT people feel safe and comfortable.

To support inclusion, ILC is calling for the development of a national standard or quality assurance framework around equality and diversity training for the needs of older LGBT people.

ILC is also calling for better data collection on health needs and outcomes of older LGBT people to allow services to adapt to meet the demand and needs of their older LGBT population.

Dr Brian Beach, Senior Research Fellow, ILC, said: “It is disheartening that in 2019 we continue to see health inequalities between older LGBT people and their heterosexual and cisgender peers.”

“We need to see action now to build on the NHS’s pledge to end discrimination in health and care across the country. We must also enhance our understanding of the needs of the older LGBT community. Health and care staff must be trained to ensure that they are not directly or indirectly discriminating against older LGBT people.”

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