Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are more likely to experience physical and mental health issues. So are informal caregivers — people who provide unpaid help to someone with cognitive, physical, or psychological impairments to do the activities of daily living.
Now, a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers finds the combined stresses experienced by LGBT caregivers lead to worse physical and mental health, with some exceptions. Published in The Gerontologist, it is the first representative study of caregiving among members of the LGBT community compared with their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts.
“As the population ages, the number of individuals who are caregivers is expected to increase, and understanding the health effects of caregiving and caregivers’ needs is important,” says lead author Dr. Ulrike Boehmer, associate professor of community health sciences at BUSPH. “LGBT caregivers are rarely acknowledged as caregivers, despite their providing care in great numbers.”
The researchers used 2015 and 2016 data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) telephone survey. They focused on respondents in the 19 states where the BRFSS asks about caregiving, sexual orientation, and whether the respondent is transgender or cisgender. This resulted in a sample of 113,052 individuals, of whom 112,545 were cisgender and 507 were transgender — including transgender men, transgender women, and nonbinary individuals.
The researchers found that 1 in 4 gay/bisexual cisgender men were caregivers, compared to only 1 in 6 cisgender heterosexual men, while about 1 in 5 cisgender women were caregivers regardless of sexual orientation. They also found about 1 in 4 or 5 of all respondents were caregivers regardless of whether they were cisgender or transgender.
Read more about this study.