Social scientists at the University of Sussex and University College London (UCL) warn that after decades of being invisible in health and social research, there is a limited evidence base available to understand the increased risks of exposure to COVID-19 for the LGBTQ+ community.
Dr Laia Becares and Dr Dylan Kneale are calling on the government to commit resources to support LGBTQ+ charities and services fundamental for wellbeing, as well as undergoing more extensive data collection around gender and sexuality er to highlight areas of need within the LGBTQ+ community.
They have also launched the Queerantine Survey to understand the impact of the coronavirus global pandemic on the wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community.
The study is seeking information on LGBTQ+ people’s social networks, volunteering, stress, mental health, wellbeing, and sociodemographic information through a 15-minute questionnaire.
Results are being collected until early September with the first results expected later that month.
- Higher levels of long-term chronic illness among LGB people
- LGBTQ+ people more likely to smoke
- Lesbian and bisexual women more likely to be overweight and to consume alcohol than heterosexual peers
- LGBTQ+ people more likely to be asthmatic
- LGBTQ+ people more likely to be immunocompromised
Dr Becares and Dr Kneale are concerned that the impact of the current restrictions could prove to be more detrimental to the LGBTQ+ community because of a disproportionate burden of mental health issues among LGBTQ+ people, which could be exacerbated by the stress, isolation, and loneliness of lockdown.
Added to this, the diversion of capacity within the health system to cope with the demand of COVID-19 is resulting in other specific healthcare needs not being addressed. This is especially true of trans people, whose access to gender identity clinics, hormones and surgery have been significantly restricted, causing an inevitable extension of waiting times for transition-related healthcare which, prior to the pandemic, already stretched to between two and four years.
Dr Becares, senior lecturer in Applied Social Science at the University of Sussex, said: ‘For some groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community, the lockdown we are experiencing now, and the uncertain future after restrictions are lifted, may only serve to exacerbate social and health inequalities that existed before the pandemic.
‘The reality is that, at the moment, we do not know whether the inequalities faced by LGBTQ+ people have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and we won’t know without further concerted data collection.
‘Data collection on LGBTQ+ lives through national surveys has been woefully poor over recent years, and data on transgender people is almost entirely absent.’
Dr Dylan Kneale, principal research fellow at the EPPI-Centre, UCL Institute of Education, said: ‘The pandemic is having a differential impact across groups, and is casting a light on exclusionary practices and prejudice that are ordinarily overlooked, or accepted as inexorable. For example, the omission of deaths in care homes until very recently from UK COVID-19 mortality statistics has been viewed as tantamount to ageism by some, and certainly indicative of the value we place on the lives of older people.’
For more information, including ongoing dissemination of study findings, visit the website here.