Older Gays Have Higher Risk of Loneliness
BY Andi Alexander
September 13 2011 2:25 PM ET
A recent study by U.K. gay rights group Stonewall indicates that aging gay men and women have a greater risk of loneliness than do heterosexuals, London's Observerreports.
The YouGov survey commissioned by Stonewall questioned 1,050 heterosexual and 1,036 lesbian, gay, and bisexual people over the age of 55, and found that LGB people are more likely to be single and see their families less frequently than straights. While a little over a quarter of older gay or bisexual men and half of lesbian or bisexual women have children, nearly nine out of 10 heterosexual people have children.
Previous studies have indicated that loneliness in old age is associated with depression and poor health.
"This pioneering research confirms what we already knew intuitively, that there are hundreds of thousands of lesbian and gay people growing older without the same family and support structures that many straight people enjoy," said Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall. "Quite often, that's because their own families have disowned them just because of the way they were born."
The study also found that gay and bisexual men are three times as likely as heterosexual men to live alone when they are older and that older LGB people are more likely to depend on formal support services as opposed to family and friends.
Despite the concerns, many say they feel uncomfortable admitting their sexuality to public health and support workers: Three of five LGP people questioned said social services and housing facilities could not meet their needs, while half said they would feel uncomfortable coming out to staff from those services.
"For the first time this generation of aging gay people fully expects to be treated with respect by both public and commercial service providers," said Summerskill.
The research provides further evidence that LGB people are more anxious about aging than heterosexuals.
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