Objective The social distancing measures governments implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have had substantial impacts. For some communities, these impacts will be disproportionate, with those communities experiencing inequalities, marginalisation or discrimination facing specific challenges. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and allied (LGBQ+) communities experience a range of well-being inequalities that may have been impacted by the pandemic. The study aimed to assess the comparative impact of the UK’s response to COVID-19 on LGBQ+ communities.

Design A mixed-method explanatory sequential study of the general population using a cross-sectional online survey and semistructured interviews.

Setting Community, North West of England.

Participants Adults aged 18 years and over; 1540 participated in the survey (192, 12%, LGBQ+) with 49 undergoing semistructured interviews (15 LGBQ+) during spring and summer of 2020.

Results Survey findings indicated that LGBQ+ people experienced similar positive and negative impacts to the rest of the population, but some negative impacts were more marked among the LGBQ+ community. LGBQ+ participants were more likely to disagree that ‘the government considered the impact on people like you’ when preparing guidance. They were significantly more likely to report being unable to access sufficient food and required medication, eating less healthily, exercising less regularly, experiencing poorer quality sleep and taking more pain medicine than usual. Interview data supported these differences; isolation, being unable to access social networks and concerns about health were commonly discussed by the LGBQ+ participants. Positive impacts, including better work–life balance, were similar across both groups.

Conclusions The findings indicate LGBQ+ communities’ wellbeing inequalities have been compounded by the social distancing restrictions, for example, by impacts on social networks increasing loneliness. Preparedness planning for future pandemics should include equality impact assessments for potential interventions.


This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

Cite as

Hope, V., Timpson, H., Porcellato, L., Brett, C., Harrison, R., Hunt, A., Bigland, C., Leavey, C., Hay, G. & Saini, P. 2023, 'Did the UK’s COVID-19 restrictions during 2020 have a differential impact on the well-being of the LGBQ+ population: A mixed methods study', BMJ Open, 13(10), article no: e068818. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2022-068818

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Last updated: 12 October 2023
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