An American study has found that LGBTQ+ people have higher rates of memory loss and confusion – two early signs of dementia.
LGBT people from the U.S were found to be 29% more likely to report cognitive impairment than their straight, cisgender (identifying with sex assigned at birth) counterparts.
The large survey may have found new risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.
Results also raised questions about the impact of social stressors i.e homophobia and transphobia on cognitive abilities.
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, U.S, also found that this community have more problems with daily activities such as cooking and cleaning.
Researchers looked at data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which included 44,403 adults age 45 or older.
Among the participants, 3% identified as LGBT and the remainder said they were heterosexual and cisgender.
One in seven, or 14%, of people in sexual and gender minorities reported memory problems which worsened.
In comparison, one in 10 heterosexual and cisgender people reported the same problems.
After adjusting for characteristics such as age, gender, race and ethnicity, marital status, and income, the researchers found 29% more reports of cognitive decline.
Jason Flatt, an assistant professor at UCSF and lead author of the study also said LGBT people struggle more with daily activities compared to heterosexual and cisgender individuals.
People with subjective cognitive decline are three times more likely to have future cognitive decline, he said.
He added that the survey doesn’t necessarily mean that LGBT people will have a higher rate of Alzheimer’s, but that they show a concerning trend that needs addressing.
‘The community really needs greater support, education, screening for their memory, an opportunity to talk to their doctor about these problems,’ said the author.
‘Additional research is also needed, and [we need] questions asking about sexual orientation and gender identity in national surveys.
‘Otherwise, how are we going to see how the community does over time?’
With dementia being rare for those below 60, it’s important to note that the subjects studied were relatively young.
Also worth noting is that 29% of the LGBT group out of 44,400 respondents is just 386 people.
The findings of the study will be presented at the 2019 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles.
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