A new nationwide study has found group intervention is an effective way to help aging lesbian and bisexual women improve overall health.
“It’s important to have support from others in order to make changes in one’s own life,” says Michele Eliason, professor of health education at San Francisco State University and one of the study’s authors. “Having a place for these women to gather where they could feel safe and talk about issues they were concerned about was really crucial.”
Nearly 60 percent of study participants increased their weekly physical activity minutes by at least 20 percent. Ninety-five percent achieved at least one of their health improvement objectives, and 58 percent achieved three or more health goals. Findings have been published in a supplement to the journal Women’s Health Issues.
The study was aimed at improving the physical and mental quality of life for the more than 375 lesbian and bisexual women ages 40 and older who were overweight. Researchers conducted culturally tailored interventions in 10 cities across the United States involving weekly group meetings, nutrition education and physical activity as well as pre- and post-intervention surveys. The study was conducted as part of the Health Weight in Lesbian and Bisexual Women: Striving for a Healthy Community initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health.
Similar studies and surveys of older women in the sexual minority suggests many face challenges with openly discussing their health and lifestyle with healthcare providers. That could lead to health disparities for higher levels of stress, anxiety and substance abuse compared to their heterosexual counterparts.