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UNB researchers publish results on social disparities in cardiometabolic health among LGB Canadians

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Oct 6, 2021

Category: UNB Fredericton

An associate professor from the University of New Brunswick’s sociology department in Fredericton has released research results from a study that’s one of the first of its kind in Canada on cardiometabolic health disparities among sexual minority Canadians.

Dr. Neeru Gupta, along with her co-researcher Zihao Sheng, published findings of the study, “Disparities in the hospital cost of cardiometabolic diseases among lesbian, gay, and bisexual Canadians: a population-based cohort study using linked data,” in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.

According to Gupta and Sheng, studies from different countries have indicated that sexual minorities – including lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals – experience significant health inequalities across a wide range of health indicators. The evidence points out that LGB persons are often described as having poorer health status and well-being compared with their heterosexual peers. This pattern is widely attributed to the social stresses that stem from underlying stigma, prejudice and discrimination.

“Sexual minority status is increasingly recognized as a social determinant of health,” Dr. Gupta notes. “However, cardiometabolic health is understudied among sexual minorities. Much of the available research tends to focus on sexual health, mental health, and behavioural health indicators. Moreover, few studies have been published that are based on objectively verifiable data or that can be generalized to the national population.”

In other words, there is very little research available that focuses on the socio-political factors underlying sexual minority status that can lead to poorer health outcomes from type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart disease and other chronic cardiometabolic conditions.

For the study, Gupta and Sheng leveraged innovative linked survey and administrative health datasets to create a national cohort of hospital inpatients by sexual identity status. Using this new data resource made available through Statistics Canada’s Social Data Linkage Environment, the researchers were able to pool together a representative sample to investigate the economic burden of sexual minority health disparities related to cardiometabolic hospitalizations.

The study’s findings highlight that the costs to the healthcare system for potentially avoidable hospitalizations for cardiometabolic diseases tend to be significantly higher among LGB individuals, even after adjusting statistically for one’s age, health status and other characteristics.

“The use of linked administrative and survey data allows for increased awareness and drawing more reliable policy conclusions to prevent cardiometabolic disease complications and reduces health inequalities associated with sexual identity in the Canadian context,” says Dr. Gupta.

The data analysis for this research was conducted at the Statistics Canada Research Data Centre located on the University of New Brunswick’s Fredericton campus. The study received financial support from Diabetes Canada, the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of New Brunswick and Diabetes Action Canada. It was also featured among the Canadian Journal of Public Health Editor’s Choice articles.

Media contact: Angie Deveau

Photo: Dr. Neeru Gupta. Credit: Rob Blanchard/UNB