This project, led by Dr Richard Harding and Dr Katherine Bristowe, Kings College London ACCESSCare II and funded by Marie Curie, aims to study bereavement outcomes for lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) and heterosexual partners using a population-based, cross- sectional, mixed methods study.
Bereavement impacts heavily on those closest to the deceased, with caregivers 20-50 per cent more at risk of mental health problems than non-caregivers. Bereaved partners are less likely to seek medical attention and have increased odds of worsening/new illness and mortality.
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people constitute minority groups with specific healthcare needs, including: greater all-cause mortality; higher rates of mental illness; more risk behaviours linked to discrimination; increased risk of life-limiting illnesses; increased isolation; and potentially increased palliative care needs. Partners are therefore more likely to be bereaved, and, with higher rates of mental illness, may have worse bereavement outcomes.
Despite protection under the UK Equality Act (2010), experiences of discrimination for LGB people are common in healthcare, resulting in reluctance to access healthcare and share sexual orientation with healthcare professionals. The need to end health disparities/discrimination for LGB people was highlighted in a recent Lancet Editorial.
Many LGB people also expect discrimination in end-of-life care and in bereavement. Our recent systematic review described additional barriers/stressors in bereavement, and an absence of quantitative studies of bereaved LGB partners since 1990s and beyond the context of HIV/AIDS. With poorer mental health outcomes, increased isolation and experiences of discrimination, we hypothesise that LGB bereaved partners have worse bereavement outcomes than heterosexual partners.