A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA finds older LGBTQ+ Americans were affected more negatively by the COVID-19 pandemic than their straight peers.
Using data from the U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey, the report examined the demographics, health, and economic experiences of LGBTQ+ adults aged 50–64 and those aged 65 and older during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That survey data included questions about sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time, granting researchers an unprecedented trove of information about LGBTQ+ Americans.
Here’s what they discovered by the numbers:
Figure 1 breaks down the percentage of straight/cisgender and LGBTQ+ adults aged 50–64 and 65 and older in the United States by race/ethnicity.
More people aged 50–64 identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender than those 65 years of age and older. Of LGBTQ+ people, 95% were lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and 5% were transgender. Also, more men 50+ identified as LGBTQ+ than women did, the opposite of younger age cohorts, where women dominate.
Figure 2 shows household size among adults aged 50–64 and 65 and older by sexual and gender identity.
The survey also indicated fewer Black respondents identified as LGBTQ+ compared with their proportion in the straight/cisgender population. In the 50–64 age cohort, fewer Asian respondents were LGBTQ+, and slightly more White and Multiracial respondents were LGBTQ+ than their proportion in the straight/cisgender population.
Figure 3 compares marital status among 50+ straight and LGBTQ+ adults. While a much higher percentage of the straight 50+ population are or have been married compared to LGBTQ+ people, the number is about even for divorce and separation.
Figure 4 compares economic factors and receipt of food benefits by sexual and gender identity. A higher percentage of older LGBTQ+ adults live below the federal poverty line (FPL) than their straight counterparts.
Figures 5 and 6 break down economic status during the pandemic among all adults aged 50–64 and 65 and above by race/ethnicity.
The survey indicated similar proportions among all ethnic groups reported relying on credit cards or loans and savings or retirement to supplement their incomes during the pandemic. In contrast, more White LGBTQ+ people reported using the same income sources they used before the pandemic to meet their spending needs. More Black, Hispanic, and Multiracial LGBTQ+ people reported relying on borrowed money from friends and family, and more Hispanic, Asian, and Multiracial LGBTQ+ people reported depending on stimulus payments compared to White LGBTQ+ people.
Figure 7 compares the percentage of straight and LGBTQ+ adults 50 and older who received a COVID-19 vaccine. In both age cohorts, almost all LGBTQ+ people had received the COVID-19 vaccine; more than their straight peers. But among those who tested positive or had been diagnosed with COVID-19, the proportions were similar.
Figure 8 shows who received a COVID-19 vaccine among LGBTQ+ adults by race/ethnicity. The Asian population’s vaccine rate was close to universal.
About 40% of LGBTQ+ and straight/cisgender people tested positive for COVID-19 or had been diagnosed with the virus by a healthcare provider.
Figure 9 reveals anxiety and depression symptoms among adults 50+, broken down by sexual and gender identity. While vaccination rates among LGBTQ+ adults were higher than their 50+ straight counterparts, reported anxiety and depression numbers were higher.
Figure 10 charts medication and therapy used for mental health among adults 50+ by sexual and gender identity. Medication and therapy were employed at significantly higher rates among LGBTQ+ people in both cohorts across all categories.
Figures 11 and 12 break down anxiety and depression symptoms among LGBTQ+ adults 50 and older by race/ethnicity. Multiracial individuals report higher incidences of anxiety and depression than almost all other groups in both categories.