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prevalent in the LGBT population than among the general population (Mayer, 2008). These health disparities are largely a result of stigmatization and the stress it causes (Mayer, 2008). Fredriksen-Goldsen’s study is one of the first to examine substance abuse among LGBT older adults. It noted that 12% of participants used illegal drugs in the past year (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al, 2011), a level more than twice as high as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s finding of 5.2% illegal drug use in the general population of adults 50 and over (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011). It also found high rates of excessive drinking among the LGBT older adult population. Among LGBT older adults, 17.13% of gay and bisexual men and 7.88% of lesbian and bisexual women drank alcohol excessively in the preceding year, compared to 11.12% and 4.61% for heterosexual men and women, respectively (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al, 2011). Researchers are just now beginning to turn their attention to substance abuse in the overall population of older adults (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011), and the disproportionately high rates in the LGBT community identified by Fredriksen-Goldsen suggest that more research is also needed for this population. Mental health issues and substance abuse are not an inherent part of being an LGBT older adult; however, anti-LGBT bias and its broad effects have a strong negative impact on mental health (Mayer, 2008). When many of today’s LGBT older adults were born, LGBT status was considered a mental illness (Grant, 2009), and many are still reluctant to disclose their status to healthcare providers due to fear of discrimination (Mayer, 2008). Overall, disclosing LGBT status has a positive effect on mental health (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al, 2011). It can also lead to more appropriate health care, because the provider will have more information about the patient. Health care providers often discriminate against LGBT older adult patients, however (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al, 2011). Training health care providers for cultural competence can help reduce this discrimination. It is important for health care providers to ask patients about sexual orientation and gender identity, but these questions should be phrased properly and paired with proper instruction and training. Overall, a lifetime of discrimination is harmful to mental health (Grant, 2009, and FredriksenGoldsen et al, 2011), and rates of victimization are high (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al, 2011). Of the participants in Fredriksen-Goldsen’s study, 82% were victimized at least once in their lives due to their LGBT status (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al, 2011). Additionally, LGBT older adults with lower incomes are more likely to report experiencing bias and to report lower levels of social support (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al, 2011). Researchers and practitioners have more work to do to discover the best approach to reducing mental illness and substance abuse in the LGBT older adult population. Overall, efforts to make society more tolerant and accepting of the LGBT community will help improve mental health in this population.

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In Their Own Words: Hispanic LGBT Older Adults  

This report was created by the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) in partnership with SAGE and sponsored by the Diverse Elder Coalit...

In Their Own Words: Hispanic LGBT Older Adults  

This report was created by the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) in partnership with SAGE and sponsored by the Diverse Elder Coalit...

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