The Unfolding of LGBT Lives: Key Events Associated With Health and Well-being in Later Life

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Abstract

Purpose of the Study:

Life events are associated with the health and well-being of older adults. Using the Health Equity Promotion Model, this article explores historical and environmental context as it frames life experiences and adaptation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults.

Design and Methods:

This was the largest study to date of LGBT older adults to identify life events related to identity development, work, and kin relationships and their associations with health and quality of life (QOL). Using latent profile analysis (LPA), clusters of life events were identified and associations between life event clusters were tested.

Results:

On average, LGBT older adults first disclosed their identities in their 20s; many experienced job-related discrimination. More had been in opposite-sex marriage than in same-sex marriage. Four clusters emerged: “Retired Survivors” were the oldest and one of the most prevalent groups; “Midlife Bloomers” first disclosed their LGBT identities in mid-40s, on average; “Beleaguered At-Risk” had high rates of job-related discrimination and few social resources; and “Visibly Resourced” had a high degree of identity visibility and were socially and economically advantaged. Clusters differed significantly in mental and physical health and QOL, with the Visibly Resourced faring best and Beleaguered At-Risk faring worst on most indicators; Retired Survivors and Midlife Bloomers showed similar health and QOL.

Implications:

Historical and environmental contexts frame normative and non-normative life events. Future research will benefit from the use of longitudinal data and an assessment of timing and sequencing of key life events in the lives of LGBT older adults.

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