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Equity under pressure: Does the burden of COVID-19 threaten progress made?

September 09, 2020  · 3 min read

By Anna Sangster - Program Manager, International Federation on Ageing


The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis touching the lives of everyone around the world. In times such as these people often take solace in collective experience, they take comfort in the notion that everyone, as the expression goes, is in the same boat… but is this really true?

In a recent article entitled “Help for the money anxieties of older LGBT Adults” the impact and disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on the lives and particularly the financial security of LGBT Americans is illustrated. John C. Williams, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in June that “the unemployment rate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people was nearly double the national average during the pandemic.


Understanding what drives this stark difference requires a closer inspection of the everyday lived experience of LGBT individuals. LGBT folks especially older LGBT, often experience higher rates of:

  • Discrimination
  • Higher instances of health conditions
  • Increased social isolation when compared to non-LGBT people.

This combined with the fact that LGBT individuals rely more heavily on the informal economy and industries that have been heavily affected by COVID-19 restrictions such as the service and entertainment industries, has had devastating impacts within this community.

The vulnerability of older LGBT adults during the pandemic, is but one salient example that illustrates the urgent need to formally acknowledge and incorporate an equity lens into pandemic responses. The importance of the role of equity cannot be overstated, UN Secretary General António Guterres said in a recent virtual town hall that “the global pandemic has already reversed decades of limited and fragile progress on gender equality and women’s rights” adding that “Without a concerned response, we risk losing a generation or more of gains.”


As is the case with the LGBT community, women globally have been disproportionally impacted with respect to not only labour force participation but also increased domestic violence. Compounded with the reality that there are fewer resources and support services available, the mental and physical health implications are dire.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly led to a collective experience but in that collective experience there is a collective responsibility. While individuals around the world have been weathering the same storm, our protections against the storm have been vastly different. Recognizing these differences and working actively to mitigate the impacts within our marginalized communities is a crucial step to not only protecting the rights and needs of all individuals, but in preserving hard earned progress and shaping a future where addressing inequity is a priority.


If you are a journalist looking to report on the impact of COVID-19 on older LGBT individuals and older women – then let our experts help.


Michael Adams is currently the Chief Executive Officer of SAGE (Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders), the oldest and largest organization in the United States dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults. In partnership with SAGE affiliates countrywide, SAGE serves countless LGBT older people nationally via technical assistance, trainings and services as well as advocacy at every level of government.

Dr Pat Armstrong is a Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology at York University in Toronto. She held a CHSRF/CIHR Chair in Health Services and Nursing Research and has published on a wide variety of issues related to long-term care, health care policy, and women’s health.


Both experts are available to speak with media about this important topic – simply click on either expert’s icon to arrange an interview today!

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