A new study suggests that members of the LGBT community are more likely to suffer from dementia and cognitive loss, likely due to social factors.
The study published by the University of California, San Francisco found that LGBT people were 29% more likely to report memory loss, confusion and other symptoms than the straight cisgender population.
The study reported at the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles said that LGBT people are more likely to report that they’ve noticed trouble with their memories. Although dementia requires a doctor’s diagnosis, many cases reveal that cognitive decline is the first symptom.
Though there is no certain reason why sexual or gender minority individuals have a higher cognitive decline, Jason Flatt, an assistant professor at the institute for Health & Aging at UCSF, said in a statement that it “may be due to higher rates of depression, ability to work, high stress, and a lack of regular access to healthcare.”
According to the study, social factors play a major role. LGBT individuals are more likely to live alone, experience discrimination, rejection, harassment and trauma based on their sexual or gender identity, Flatt says.
“LGBT people can’t rely on traditional support structures,” Flatt says. The study points out that LGBT people are nearly 60% more likely to live alone and 59% more likely to not have a caregiver.
Flatt notes that survey results don’t mean LGBT people will necessarily have higher incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, but they show a concerning trend that needs additional attention.
“The community really needs greater support, education, screening for their memory, and opportunity to talk to their doctor about these problems,” said Flatt.
Additional research is also needed, and he advocated for the inclusion of questions asking about sexual orientation and gender identity in national surveys. Otherwise, “how are we going to see how the community does over time?” he asked.
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