Sexual Minority Disparities in Health and Well-Being as a Consequence of the COVID-19 Pandemic Differ by Sexual Identity

LGBT Health. 2021 May-Jun;8(4):263-272. doi: 10.1089/lgbt.2020.0489. Epub 2021 Apr 21.


Purpose: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has accentuated long-standing population health disparities in the United States. We examined how the pandemic and its social consequences may differentially impact sexual minority adults, relative to heterosexual adults. Methods: Data are from a U.S. national sample of adults (n = 2996; 18.06%) collected from online panels from April to May 2020. We used eight indicators of well-being-mental health, physical health, quality of life, stress, loneliness, psychological distress, alcohol use, and fatigue-to assess the degree to which sexual identity subgroups (i.e., heterosexual, gay/lesbian, bisexual, and "other" sexual minority) varied in retrospective pre- and postpandemic onset indicators of well-being and whether groups varied in their rate of change from pre- and postpandemic onset. Results: The results showed consistent patterns of decline in well-being across sexual identity subgroups, although changes in mental health, physical health, quality of life, stress, and psychological distress were more robust among sexual minority adults in general, relative to heterosexual adults. Adjusted multivariate models testing differences in change in retrospective pre- and postpandemic onset found that well-being among bisexual men and women was most negatively impacted by the pandemic. Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic may have distinct health consequences for sexual minority adults in the United States. Our findings support and further legitimize calls for more comprehensive surveillance and cultural responsiveness in emergency preparedness as it relates to sexual minority people and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; LGB; coronavirus; health disparities; mental health; sexual minority.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / psychology*
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology