Feb 4, 2021 - Health

LGBTQ Americans at heightened risk for severe coronavirus symptoms, CDC says

Illustration of an LGBTQ flag as a surgical mask.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affects LGBTQ Americans compared to their straight peers, per an analysis released Thursday.

Why it matters: The report is one of the agency's first public examinations of how the coronavirus is affecting LGBTQ people, and comes amid an information drought as advocates take the reins on gathering data.

What they found: Self-reported underlying health conditions linked to severe coronavirus symptoms are more prevalent in LGBTQ people, as discrimination can increase vulnerabilities to illness and limit access to health services, the agency says.

  • LGBTQ people in the study reported a higher rate of asthma, cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, strokes and other conditions than straight people.
  • Black and Hispanic LGBTQ people are at even higher risk, as people of color are more likely to be hospitalized from the virus and die from it.

One level deeper: Advocates say LGBTQ Americans, especially young adults, face increased risks of poor mental health, homelessness and lost income due to the pandemic.

The bottom line: "Collecting data on sexual orientation in COVID-19 surveillance and other studies would improve knowledge about disparities in infection and adverse outcomes by sexual orientation, thereby informing more equitable responses to the pandemic," the agency said.

Methodology: The CDC used the 2017–2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to examine disparities in underlying conditions between sexual minority and heterosexual adults. BRFSS is a collection of population health surveys that gather demographic and health information from noninstitutionalized U.S. residents aged ≥18 years.

All conditions are self-reported. The number of respondents identifying as transgender or nonbinary was too small for reliable estimates compared with the majority cisgender population.

Go deeper