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LGBT+ health and wellbeing

Sometimes accessing services can be tricky. It shouldn't be.

No one should fear or face discrimination and poor treatment when accessing health or care services. Everyone's health is as important as each other's. 

Health services

Healthcare services have a duty to provide care that's fair and equal. But if you've faced discrimination or poor treatment in the past, it’s understandable to worry it could happen again. Every doctor’s surgery should have a policy on equality and diversity, which you can ask to see at any time.

Any information you share with NHS staff is confidential and there are strict laws to ensure health records are kept secure.

Sexual health

If you have a new sexual partner, or more than one sexual partner, unprotected sex could put you at risk of a sexually transmitted infection (STI). STIs among older people have risen in the past 10 years. There has also been a rise in the transmission of HIV among older adults across the UK. For more information see How much do we know about sex in later life?

The best way to prevent STIs is to practise safer sex, which includes using some form of protection, like, condoms.

Not all STIs have symptoms so it’s important to have regular sexual health checks. If you’d prefer not to see your usual doctor, you can make an appointment at a sexual health or genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic. Some of these are drop-in centres where you don’t need an appointment.

Mental wellbeing

You might find it difficult to talk about, but there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you find yourself dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression. Mental disorders affect 1 in 6 people in the UK, so they’re probably more common than you think. Although mental health problems aren’t an inevitable part of ageing, research has shown that older LGBT+ people’s mental wellbeing can be affected if they've experienced years of prejudice.

Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental health problem in the UK. The symptoms are complex and vary widely, but may include feeling sad or hopeless and losing interest in activities you previously enjoyed. There can also be physical symptoms such as sleeping too much or too little, a change in appetite and various aches and pains.

Talking to someone about how you’re feeling may seem daunting, but you don’t need to deal with it on your own. There are lots of people who can help. Speaking to your doctor is a great place to start. If you don’t want to go on your own, is there someone who could go with you to offer support? After listening to your symptoms your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you. These can include self-help, lifestyle changes, prescribed medication or talking treatments. If you would prefer to speak to someone anonymously over the phone or online, there are organisations such as the Samaritans that can help.

Telling services about yourself

Questions about your sexual orientation or gender identity can feel personal, and even intrusive, but they help service providers know if what they offer is right for you. If you’ve had negative experiences after sharing personal information in the past, it’s normal to worry it could happen again, but if your LGBT+ status remains hidden there is a real risk that your needs may remain hidden too.

Health and public services are now very used to supporting LGBT+ people of all ages and backgrounds. There are also strict laws about confidentiality and privacy, as well as the Equality Act’s protections against discrimination, so any personal information you share must be kept private, and health and care workers must treat you fairly.

Living with dementia as an LGBT+ person

Living with dementia as an LGBT+ person can present certain challenges. Some of the symptoms of dementia can mean daily decisions, memories and changes you've experienced in the past have certain implications.

You could find it harder to remember who you've told about your sexual orientation or gender identity, or you may find it more difficult to access support. For more specific information as an LGBT+ person living with dementia, see Alzheimer’s Society’s guide LGBT: Living with dementia.

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Last updated: May 10 2022

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