LGBTQ community faces greater health and economic challenges due to COVID-19
Editor’s Note (07/07/2020): This article includes findings from the COVID-19 Monitor Survey of U.S. Adults that has fielded three waves of data collection from March 2020 through May 2020. The new information, shared below, examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the LGBTQ community, specifically related to health and finances. Learn more about the ICF COVID-19 Monitor Survey of U.S. Adults.
The ICF COVID-19 Monitor Survey of U.S. Adults was designed to obtain snapshots of public attitudes and behaviors over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. By aggregating data across multiple waves, we evaluated the impact of the pandemic on smaller, vulnerable population segments. Almost one in twelve (7.7%) of our total sample across all three waves of data collection identified as a member of the LGBTQ community—a population that has been disproportionately affected across several domains of physical, social, and emotional health. In this article, we explore the relationships between COVID-19 and the LGBTQ community, examining impacts to physical and mental health, as well as financial status.
LGBTQ community reports greater household COVID-19 diagnoses than the general population.
Nearly half of the LGBTQ population feels they are very likely (13%) or somewhat likely (33%) to personally get sick with COVID-19. By contrast, only about a third of the rest of the sample feels they are very likely (6%) or somewhat likely (28%) to get COVID-19.
Nearly twice as many (32%) Americans who identify as LGBTQ report that they had been sick and thought they might have COVID-19 compared to the rest of the population (17%). The survey subsequently asks participants whether they have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Many of those who responded “yes” may not have had a confirmatory nasal swab test for COVID-19, but rather a presumptive diagnosis. Three times as many Americans who identify as LGBTQ (9%) compared to the rest of the sample (3%) report that they or another member of their household had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The difference in the reported rates of COVID-19 diagnosis between those who identify as LBGTQ and non-LGBTQ is statistically significant.
Job losses and reduced income are higher among the LGBTQ community than the rest of the population.
The LGBTQ community has also endured greater economic fallout due to the virus. Since January, 28% of LGBTQ Americans reported that they or another household member had lost a job as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, compared to 23% of the rest of the population. Further, 49% of LGBTQ Americans reported that they or another household member had their employment hours reduced, compared to 46% of the rest of the population. Both of these differences are large enough to be statistically significant.
Varying economic impacts of COVID-19 have left many households struggling to make ends meet. The survey found that 45% of LGBTQ Americans reported some or a lot of difficulty paying the full amount of their rent or mortgage. By contrast, only 32% of the rest of the population report some or a lot of difficulty paying the full amount of their rent or mortgage. The difference is statistically significant.
COVID-19 is exacerbating the psychological distress of the LGBTQ community.
Data consistently shows that the LGBTQ community experiences significantly higher rates of mental health concerns as compared to the general population. While the causes of this disparity are not fully understood, many believe that it is in part due to the stress created by living as a stigmatized minority (often referred to as minority stress). Consistent with this known, pre-pandemic difference between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ populations, our survey found that LGBTQ individuals were more than twice as likely as non-LGBTQ persons to suffer symptoms of moderate or severe psychological distress during the pandemic. Nearly half of Americans who identify as LGBTQ (46%) reported moderate or severe symptoms of psychological distress during the two weeks prior to the interviews in March, April, and May. By contrast, only 21% of other Americans reported moderate to severe symptoms of psychological distress during the same period.
The fact that LGBTQ Americans likely experienced pre-pandemic psychological distress at higher rates than non-LGBTQ individuals suggests that they were a vulnerable population prior to the pandemic, and this persists during the pandemic. Our survey has shown positive correlations between perceived likelihood of getting COVID-19, loss of employment and financial hardship, and poorer mental health outcomes in the general population. The higher rates of COVID-19 symptoms and diagnosis with COVID-19 among the LGBTQ population, along with significantly higher rates of job loss and employment hours reduction in this segment, suggests that the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be exacerbating psychological distress in this vulnerable population. This suggests that if the negative effects of COVID-19 increase further, so will the psychological distress level among LGBTQ Americans.