Life under COVID-19 for LGBT+ people in the UK: systematic review of UK research on the impact of COVID-19 on sexual and gender minority populations

McGowan, Victoria J, Lowther, Hayley orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-7500-0513 and Meads, Catherine (2021) Life under COVID-19 for LGBT+ people in the UK: systematic review of UK research on the impact of COVID-19 on sexual and gender minority populations. BMJ Open, 11 (7). e050092.

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Objective: To systematically review all published and unpublished evidence on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health and well-being of UK sexual and gender minority (LGBT+; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, intersex and queer) people. Methods: Any relevant studies with or without comparator were included, with outcomes of: COVID-19 incidence, hospitalisation rates, illness severity, death rates, other health and well-being. Six databases (platforms) were searched—CINAHL Plus (Ovid), Cochrane Central (Cochrane Library), Medline (Ovid), Embase (Ovid), Science Citation Index (Web of Science) and Scopus between 2019 and 2020 in December 2020, using synonyms for sexual and gender minorities and COVID-19 search terms. Data extraction and quality assessment (using the relevant Joanna Briggs checklist) were in duplicate with differences resolved through discussion. Results were tabulated and synthesis was through narrative description. Results: No published research was found on any outcomes. Eleven grey literature reports found to be of low quality were included, mostly conducted by small LGBT+ charities. Only four had heterosexual/cisgender comparators. Mental health and well-being, health behaviours, safety, social connectedness and access to routine healthcare all showed poorer or worse outcomes than comparators. Conclusions: Lack of research gives significant concern, given pre-existing health inequities. Social and structural factors may have contributed to poorer outcomes (mental health, well-being and access to healthcare). Paucity of evidence is driven by lack of routinely collected sexual orientation and gender identity data, possibly resulting from institutional homophobia/transphobia which needs to be addressed. Men are more at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 than women, so using data from trans women and men might have started to answer questions around whether higher rates were due to sex hormone or chromosomal effects. Routine data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity is required to examine the extent to which COVID-19 is widening pre-existing health inequalities. PROSPERO registration number: CRD42020224304.

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