April 20, 2015
1 min read

LGB older adults twice as likely to use mental health services vs. heterosexual peers

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Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults aged 50 years and older were twice as likely to use mental health services compared with their heterosexual peers, according to study findings in Psychiatric Services in Advance.

Ian Stanley, BA, of Florida State University, and Jeffrey Duong, PhD, of the University of California, Davis, analyzed data from the 2011 New York City Community Health Survey for 5,138 adults aged 50 years and older. They assessed associations between sexual orientation, mental health services and psychiatric medication utilization, psychological distress and excessive alcohol use. The study cohort had a mean age of 65.3 years and 4.1% reported being lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB).

In unadjusted and adjusted analysis, sexual orientation was not a significant predictor of psychological distress.

LGB participants were significantly more likely to report excessive alcohol use (OR = 2.66; adjusted OR = 1.78) vs. heterosexual participants.

LGB adults were significantly less likely to report poor general medical health (OR = 0.55; aOR = 0.76) vs. heterosexual adults.

Compared with heterosexual participants, LGB adults were two times as likely to report attending counseling within the past year (OR = 2.09). This finding remained true when adjusting for sociodemographic variables (aOR = 2.24). Further, this finding was also true in an analysis adjusting for proposed mediators, including psychological distress, excessive alcohol use and poor general medical health (aOR = 2.16).

LGB adults were also more likely to report using psychiatric medication within the last year (OR = 1.77) vs. heterosexual adults, and this finding remained true when adjusting for sociodemographic variables (aOR = 2.04).

“These findings suggest that LGB older adults may be utilizing mental health services at elevated rates for reasons beyond concerns regarding physical, mental or behavioral health,” Stanley and Duong concluded. “Given the emerging body of data that suggests that persons who are LGB access mental health treatment at higher rates compared with heterosexuals, it is necessary to ensure our current system of care can meet the needs of this population for care.” – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.