LGBTQ people need to be aware of the risk for cognitive loss, according to a new study.
The study, which was reported at the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, was published by the University of California, San Francisco. The study found that LGBTQ people are 29% more likely to report memory loss, confusion, and other symptoms than their straight cisgender peers.
To come up with this result, the study analyzed data from 44,403 adults aged 45 and older across nine states in the U.S. (Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin). About three percent of participants (1,253) identified as LGBTQ.
The data came from the 2015 BRFSS optional modules on the Healthy Brain Initiative and covered sectors like cognitive status and sexual orientation/gender identity. This then created a great opportunity to analyze the cognitive decline and statuses of LGBTQ people compared to their peers. Again, the results were not appealing.
“Given that 1 in 7 adults who identified as a sexual or gender minority reported subjective cognitive decline, it is critical that more opportunities exist for people in these communities to receive regular evaluation for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease,” said researchers. “There is also a need for greater education on Alzheimer’s risk, signs and symptoms, and training of health care providers to ensure inclusive and welcoming care for LGBTQ+ populations.”
After releasing the results, Jason Flatt, an assistant professor at the Institute for Health and Aging at UCSF, said in a statement that the findings “may be due to higher rates of depression, ability to work, high stress, and a lack of regular access to healthcare.”
In addition, Flatt hypothesizes that social aspects of LGBTQ life play a factor in these results as well. The constant oppression of LGBTQ people leads to a lack of support systems (LGBT people are 60% more likely to live alone and 59% more likely to not have a caregiver), lack of regular healthcare, an increase in trauma, and more.
“The community really needs greater support, education, screening for their memory, and opportunity to talk to their doctor about these problems,” said Flatt.
This is the first real look at the connection to memory loss and sexual orientation/gender identity. As such, more research is needed to elaborate on this data and to see if there’s more complexity to the subject.