Lesbians, gays, and bisexuals at risk of dementia because of depression
A new research has determined that lesbians, gays, and bisexuals (LGB) are more vulnerable to dementia as they grow older because of depression.
This was the findings of researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) that was published in the journal, The Gerontologist.
Last year, a study also noted that LGBT people are at higher risk of dementia.
High risk of dementia for older people
This study was the first to use a national sample and screening tool to analyze cognitive health disparities between older LGB adults against their straight counterparts.
“Our study speaks to the unaddressed questions about whether members the LGB community are more likely to develop cognitive impairment at older ages and, if so, what factors contribute to their poorer cognitive health,” said Ning Hsieh, an assistant professor of sociology at MSU and lead author of the study.
The researchers compared cognitive skills of 3,500 LGB and heterosexual adults and found that on average, older LGB adults were more likely to fall into categories for mild cognitive impairment or early dementia.
They also tested for specific health and social factors like physical conditions, mental health conditions, a healthy lifestyle, and social conections.
However, the only factor related to cognitive differences for sexual minorities they found out was depression.
A possible link between depression and dementia
Researchers noted that other factors like fewer social connections, drinking or smoking didn’t have a great of an effect on LGB people’s cognitive functions later in life as compared to depression.
Explaining the possible link, Hsieh said: “We knew that stress and depression are risk factors for many chronic health problems, including cognitive impairment, in later life.”
“LGB people experience more stressful events and have higher rates of depression compared to their heterosexual counterparts,” she added.
“Our findings suggest that depression may be one of the important underlying factors leading to cognitive disadvantages for LGB people,” she noted.
However, they admitted that there is still a need for additional research to understand how stressors that affect sexual minorities can lead to cognitive impairment when they get older.
Greater inclusivity needed for better wellbeing
Hsieh expressed hope that their findings may help support greater inclusivity for sexual minorities as this can influence their mental and cognitive wellbeing.
“Social inequality makes less privileged groups, including sexual minorities, more prone to develop cognitive impairment,” Hsieh said.
She pointed out LGB people may experience higher rates of depression than their heterosexual counterparts for not being accepted, feeling ashamed of their sexual orientation, and trying to hide their relationships.
“Making the society more just and more accepting of diverse sexuality may help prevent dementia and reduce related health care burden on society,” she added.
This study– which can be found here— was supported by the National Institute on Aging.