Exploring the role of intersectionality on cardiovascular disease risk in sexual minorities


Harper, Leia (2016). Exploring the role of intersectionality on cardiovascular disease risk in sexual minorities.


Background: Previous research has shown that sexual minority individuals (SM) are twice as likely to smoke, twice as likely to be overweight or obese, and less likely to be physically active than heterosexual persons; all of which place SMs at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). While information on CVD risk by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status is well documented, there is scant literature examining race, gender, and the potential CVD risk in SMs. The purpose of this study was to examine CVD risk in sexual minorities. Method: The current study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). The Framingham multiple-risk assessment, which uses a calculation of age, smoking, BMI, and blood pressure, was used to predict vascular age and the risk of experiencing CVD event in the next 10 years. 54% of the sample was male, 62% white, and 4% identified as a SM. The sample was split into three groups: 1) 100% heterosexual (N=4363); 2) mostly heterosexual (N=509); and 3) SM (N=188). Results: There was a trend towards significance, p = .056, for mean differences in vascular age/actual age, for SM participants (M=10.07), compared to 100% heterosexual (M=9.1) and mostly heterosexual (M=8.66) participants. Mostly heterosexual participants were 1.62 times more likely, and SM participants were 1.97 times more likely to be current smokers when compared to 100% heterosexual participants. SM participants endorsed having significantly more drinks (M = 4.50) when compared to both 100% heterosexual (M = 3.80) and mostly heterosexual (M = 3.38) participants. SM participants were 1.7 times more likely to endorse having 5 or more drinks on one occasion. SM participants also reported significantly higher stress levels than the other two groups Conclusion: While the data for the current study did not provide sufficient evidence to suggest sexual orientation differences in Framingham risk scores, the findings remain noteworthy. SM showed increased risk in smoking and stress levels. Additionally, the Population-based longitudinal studies and surveillance data are essential and necessary in order to minimize disparities in risk factors and to reduce the likelihood of subsequent disease in SM population.



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Harper, Leia

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Belgrave, Faye

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Virginia Commonwealth Univeristy

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