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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Mortality in Postmenopausal Women by Sexual Orientation and Veteran Status

Keren Lehavot, Eileen Rillamas-Sun, Julie Weitlauf, Rachel Kimerling, Robert B Wallace, Anne G Sadler, Nancy Fugate Woods, Jillian C Shipherd, Kristin Mattocks, Dominic J Cirillo, Marcia L Stefanick, Tracy L Simpson
Gerontologist 2016, 56 Suppl 1: S150-62
26768389

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: To examine differences in all-cause and cause-specific mortality by sexual orientation and Veteran status among older women.

DESIGN AND METHODS: Data were from the Women's Health Initiative, with demographic characteristics, psychosocial factors, and health behaviors assessed at baseline (1993-1998) and mortality status from all available data sources through 2014. Women with baseline information on lifetime sexual behavior and Veteran status were included in the analyses (N = 137,639; 1.4% sexual minority, 2.5% Veteran). The four comparison groups included sexual minority Veterans, sexual minority non-Veterans, heterosexual Veterans, and heterosexual non-Veterans. Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate mortality risk adjusted for demographic, psychosocial, and health variables.

RESULTS: Sexual minority women had greater all-cause mortality risk than heterosexual women regardless of Veteran status (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.20, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.07-1.36) and women Veterans had greater all-cause mortality risk than non-Veterans regardless of sexual orientation (HR = 1.14, 95% CI: 1.06-1.22), but the interaction between sexual orientation and Veteran status was not significant. Sexual minority women were also at greater risk than heterosexual women for cancer-specific mortality, with effects stronger among Veterans compared to non-Veterans (sexual minority × Veteran HR = 1.70, 95% CI: 1.01-2.85).

IMPLICATIONS: Postmenopausal sexual minority women in the United States, regardless of Veteran status, may be at higher risk for earlier death compared to heterosexuals. Sexual minority women Veterans may have higher risk of cancer-specific mortality compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Examining social determinants of longevity may be an important step to understanding and reducing these disparities.

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