Covid-19 Is Wreaking Havoc on LGBTQ+ Mental Health

LGBTQ+ people are especially vulnerable to the pandemic’s mental health impacts. Here’s why.

Naveen Kumar
Elemental
Published in
5 min readJul 27, 2020

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Photo: coldsnowstorm/Getty Images

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community is disproportionately affected by mental health disorders. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), LGBTQ+ individuals are more than twice as likely to experience anxiety and depression compared with the general population.

Now, a recent study from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine suggests that since the onset of the coronavirus crisis, the level of anxiety and depression among LGBTQ+ individuals has increased even more, especially in those who haven’t struggled with these conditions before.

Vulnerability to economic fallout and negative health outcomes

Like other minority populations, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience poor mental health outcomes due to a variety of factors, including discrimination, limited access to mental health care, and stigma around seeking treatment, according to the APA.

The acute stress of the pandemic is now adding to the problem, the study authors say. “It could be that the pandemic is such a huge stressor that folks who were not prone to anxiety and depression [before] are starting to have those symptoms now,” says Mitchell R. Lunn, MD, senior co-author and assistant professor at Stanford University Medical Center.

Self-reported data from study participants showed marked increases in anxiety and depression since the pandemic began. Scores on a clinical survey used to assess symptoms of anxiety and depression increased by an average of 50% and 17% respectively compared with before the pandemic.

Economic hardship seems to play a particularly important role in the increase in anxiety and depression. LGBTQ+ people are nearly twice as likely as the general population to feel their personal finances are “much worse off” than they were a year ago, according to an April study from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and PSB Research. What’s more, a UCLA Williams Institute study released prior to the pandemic found…

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Naveen Kumar
Elemental

Naveen Kumar is a culture writer and editor whose recent work appears on them.us, The Daily Beast, The Hollywood Reporter, and The New York Times.