LGBT people may be more likely to have memory problems, study finds

A study has found that LGBT+ people have higher rates of memory loss and confusion, two early signs of dementia.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, found LGBT+ people from the US were 29% more likely to report cognitive impairment than their straight or cisgender counterparts.

Data from 44,403 adults aged 45 or older were included in the survey, with three percent identifying as LGBT+.

The survey, carried out across nine US states in a random phone survey, included questions about memory loss and confusion in the past 12 months and gender identity and sexual orientation.

One in seven (14%) of people in sexual and gender minorities reported memory problems that got worse over the past year, compared to one in ten of heterosexual and cisgender people reporting the same problems.

After adjusting for characteristics such as age, gender, race and ethnicity, marital status and income, the researchers found that LGBT+ individuals were 29% more likely to report cognitive impairment compared to their counterparts.

The observations present new risk factors to consider for Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia – and raise questions about the potential impact of social stressors, such as homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

Jason Flatt, an assistant professor at UCSF and lead author of the study, also noted the LGBT+ individuals had more problems with daily activities, such as cooking and cleaning, compared to heterosexual and cisgender individuals.

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,” Flatt said.

“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?”