A new study has found that the LGBT community might be more at risk of developing dementia and cognitive loss in their elder years.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), who found that LGBT people were 29 percent more likely to report memory loss, confusion and other symptoms in comparison to straight, cisgender people, Newsweek reports.
The researchers interviewed 44,000 adults between the ages of 45 and 80 across nine different states, with 3 percent of those polled identifying as LGBT. Researchers found that one in seven of the LGBT pollers reported cognitive issues while only about one in ten straight people reported a mental decline.
The study also found that LGBT people were nearly 60 percent more likely to live alone and 59 percent more likely to not have a caregiver. LGBT people also reported having more problems performing daily activities like cooking and cleaning, Newsweek reports.
“While we do not yet know for certain why sexual or gender minority individuals had higher subjective cognitive decline, we believe it may be due to higher rates of depression, inability to work, high stress, and a lack of regular access to healthcare,” lead author Jason Flatt, an assistant professor at the Institute for Health & Aging at UCSF, said in a statement.
Tim R. Johnston, director of national projects at SAGE, the nation’s leading group for LGBT seniors, acknowledged that the study only confirms what advocates have been saying for years.
“LGBT older adults face unique challenges when living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and that more research and coordination is needed to help lessen these disparities. Hopefully this research encourages more providers, LGBT people, and their loved ones to work toward a world in which anyone with dementia can live a safe, dignified, and vibrant life.”
Flatt’s research was presented Sunday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles.
“Much too little is known about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in the LGBT community,” said the association’s chief science officer, Maria C. Carrillo. “In fact, the first data on the prevalence of dementia among sexual and gender minorities was reported only last year.”
The findings coincide with a 2010 Lambda Legal survey that found that more than half of all LGBT Americans have reported being discriminated against when seeking medical care. This leads to LGBT people being less likely to see a doctor who could help them identify early symptoms of dementia.
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