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Two Columbia Nursing Studies Find Negative Impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ+ Communities

Columbia Nursing is committed to furthering research, education, training, and policy to better serve the LGBTQ+ community.

This Pride Month, Columbia Nursing recognizes the importance of health equity among those in the LGBTQ+ community, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress. The following research conducted by Columbia Nursing highlights the increased negative impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ+ populations. 

Chicago Health and Life Experience of Women Study

In Its 20th Year, Chicago Health and Life Experience of Women Study Finds Increased Negative Impact of COVID-19 on Sexual Minority Women.

Tonda Hughes, associate dean of Global Health, is the principal investigator for the Chicago Health and Life Experiences of Women (CHLEW) study, which launched in 1999 and was the first federally funded study of lesbian and bisexual women’s health. Over the past 20 years, the project has grown into the longest running study of sexual minority women's (SMW) health worldwide.

Key findings include:

  • Sexual Minority Women are more likely than heterosexual women to report childhood abuse and more severe forms of abuse.
  • They are also more likely to report stigma and discrimination and higher rates of smoking and hazardous drinking.
  • One of the strongest predictors of mortality among participants is concealment of sexual identity from family members.

Preliminary findings suggest that negative impacts of COVID-19 on the study population include loss of employment, feelings of isolation, concern about the health of their families and about their own health—especially those with conditions like cancer, asthma, etc. Researchers plan to launch a qualitative study in which they will interview women in depth about their experiences with COVID-19.

The COVID-19 and Wellbeing Study

Comparing COVID-19-Related Mental Health Among LGBTQ+ and Heterosexual Individuals.

On April 5th, Columbia Nursing launched a longitudinal study of COVID-19 and wellbeing, led by Cindy Veldhuis, postdoctoral research fellow, with the primary intent to examine mental health and relationships.

The study, which included 3,358 respondents, all 18 or older, representing every U.S. state and more than 50 countries in the world, found significant negative impact among those who identified as LGBTQ+ compared to their heterosexual counterparts.

Key findings include:

  • Jobs and money: LGBTQ+ individuals were significantly more likely to have lost their job (8% versus 5%), to have lost a job opportunity (19% versus 12%), and to have applied for unemployment (10% versus 7%).
  • Food insecurity: LGBTQ+ people were significantly more likely to worry about running out of food (23% versus 15%), to worry about being able to afford to feed their children the way they should (24% versus 11%), and to report that their nutrition is currently poor (10% versus 6%).
  • COVID-19 symptoms: LGBTQ+ individuals were significantly more likely than heterosexual individuals to report one or more symptoms of COVID at the time of the survey (25% versus 19%).
  • Mental health: In terms of depression, LGBTQ+ people were significantly more likely to have a probable diagnosis of depression (67% versus 47%), to report feeling anxious most or all of the time (47% versus 30%), and report higher levels of acute stress. LGBTQ+ people are also significantly more likely to be at risk of suicide (11% versus 4%).
  • Substance use: LGBTQ+ people are significantly more likely to report that their use of marijuana has increased since the start of the pandemic (11% versus 6%), but no more likely to report an increase in use of alcohol or other drugs. They were also significantly more likely to report using drugs and alcohol to cope (52% versus 46%). 

Learn more about the study.