This article reports on a subset of findings from a recent UK survey of the impact of COVID-19 on older LGBT+ people in the UK. It considers the responses of 149 lesbian/gay women (137 cisgender, 12 trans) to questions relating to physical and mental health and wellbeing. Findings indicate that those women – in couples and singles – who were happy with their living circumstances pre-COVID showed stoicism, adaptability, and determined positivity in response to the pandemic and associated lockdown. Some even reported an improved quality of life, better personal relationships and increased neighborly support. By contrast, those women who were very unhappy with their circumstances prior to COVID-19 – generally women who lived alone and experienced a mismatch between their actual and desired social network – either remained unhappy or became more unhappy, due to its impact on fragile support systems. For trans women, formal support from trans/LGBT+ specific networks – online during COVID lockdown – were central to their wellbeing. Having access to, and being able to use, online technologies were essential to good mental health during lockdown. These findings reaffirm the diversity among older lesbians/gay women as well as highlighting how COVID-19 has acted as a magnifier to their preexisting circumstances. The narratives of those doing well – generally better-networked, intentionally positive and engaged in practices which promote their well-being – may offer insights for supporting those who find their lives more challenging, both during a public health crisis and more generally.


This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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Westwood, S., Hafford-Letchfield, T. & Toze, M. 2021, 'Physical and mental well-being, risk and protective factors among older lesbians /gay women in the United Kingdom during the initial COVID-19 2020 lockdown', Journal of Women & Aging. https://doi.org/10.1080/08952841.2021.1965456

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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