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Sexual orientation-related disparities in health conditions that elevate COVID-19 severity.

Lynch KE, Shipherd JC, Gatsby E, Viernes B, DuVall SL, Blosnich JR. Sexual orientation-related disparities in health conditions that elevate COVID-19 severity. Annals of epidemiology. 2022 Feb 1; 66:5-12.

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PURPOSE: The Veterans Health Administration (VA) is the largest single integrated healthcare system in the US and is likely the largest healthcare provider for people with minoritized sexual orientations (e.g., gay, lesbian, bisexual). The purpose of this study was to use electronic health record (EHR) data to replicate self-reported survey findings from the general US population and assess whether sexual orientation is associated with diagnosed physical health conditions that may elevate risk of COVID-19 severity among veterans who utilize the VA. METHODS: A retrospective analysis of VA EHR data from January 10, 1999-January 07, 2019 analyzed in 2021. Veterans with minoritized sexual orientations were included if they had documentation of a minoritized sexual orientation within clinical notes identified via natural language processing. Veterans without minoritized sexual orientation documentation comprised the comparison group. Adjusted prevalence and prevalence ratios (aPR) were calculated overall and by race/ethnicity while accounting for differences in distributions of sex assigned at birth, age, calendar year of first VA visit, volumes of healthcare utilization, and VA priority group. RESULTS: Data from 108,401 veterans with minoritized sexual orientation and 6,511,698 controls were analyzed. After adjustment, veterans with minoritized sexual orientations had a statistically significant elevated prevalence of 10 of the 11 conditions. Amongst the highest disparities observed were COPD (aPR:1.24 [95% confidence interval:1.23-1.26]), asthma (1.22 [1.20-1.24]), and stroke (1.26 [1.24-1.28]). CONCLUSIONS: Findings largely corroborated patterns among the general US population. Further research is needed to determine if these disparities translate to poorer COVID-19 outcomes for individuals with minoritized sexual orientation.

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