Landmark Study Estimates How Many LGBTQ Seniors Suffer From Dementia

Experts say there's a "growing prevalence of Alzheimer's disease" among LGBTQ seniors.

A groundbreaking study is offering the first estimates of dementia prevalence among queer seniors in the U.S.

This week, researchers from the University of California at San Francisco and Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, C.A., presented their findings at the 2018 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Chicago.

The research team analyzed the prevalence of dementia among more than 3,700 LGBTQ elders ages 60+. After nine years of follow-ups, researchers determined that the rate of dementia prevalence was 7.4% among their sample, falling just short of the Alzheimer’s Association’s most recent estimate that the disease affects 10% of adults ages 65+.

Researchers believe that high rates of other illnesses present among study participants—including depression, hypertension, stroke, and cardiovascular disease—may have contributed to their findings.

Petra Spiljard/Getty Images

“Current estimates suggest that more than 200,000 sexual minorities in the U.S. are living with dementia, but before our study, almost nothing was known about the prevalence of dementia among people in this group who do not have HIV/AIDS-related dementia,” author Jason Flatt, an assistant professor at UC San Francisco, said in a statement.

Flatt believes that more research on the topic is “greatly needed” to help LGBTQ elders, many of whom lack strong support networks or aren’t able to access vital medical resources. Sam Fazio, director of quality care and psychosocial research at the Alzheimer’s Association, agrees.

“With the growing prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease dementia and the swelling population of LGBT older adults, we place a high priority on examining the intersections of Alzheimer’s disease, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression,” he said in a statement. “A more thorough and thoughtful understanding of this intersection will enable us to better meet the needs of LGBT elders living with dementia and their caregivers.”

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