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Health issues put gay workers at risk of retirement poverty

Global, February 2, 2018

Over half of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people retire earlier than planned – putting them at risk of poverty in their senior years. Aegon’s survey finds that the most common reason for this is ill-health.

Cover of Aegon's LGBT and Retirement reportOver the past 20 years, we have seen significant gains in civil rights and workplace protection for LGBT people in many countries around the world, culminating in the recent approvals of same-sex marriage in countries like Australia, Germany, and the United States.

But for older LGBT people, the good news may have come too late.

Gay men and women who grew up in the 1960's and 70's did not experience a culture of acceptance; in fact, many lived their lives under the threat of violence and criminalization.

Those who were openly gay faced discrimination in all aspects of life, including in the workplace. They also suffered the consequences of the AIDS crisis.

The report 'LGBT: Retirement Preparations Amid Social Progress', is one of the first to explore LGBT retirement preparations on a global basis. Based on the responses of 900 online participants who self-identified as LGBT, the survey was conducted in nine countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The comparison group consisted of almost 8,500 heterosexual people across the nine countries.

Poorer health among the old

Data from the survey shows that LGBT people across all age groups are slightly more likely than heterosexuals to report their health as poor (29% versus 26%), but the differences increase as people get older, with 39% of LGBT people aged 55 and older reporting poor health compared with 32% of non-LGBT people.

The survey report highlights that LGBT workers share the same aspirations as heterosexuals to retire at age 65 and enjoy around 20 years of retirement. That more than half of LGBT retired sooner than they planned, and in many cases due to ill-health, means that they have fewer years to save for their retirement, and are at greater risk of living in poverty in older age

Explaining the LGBT health gap

When it comes to living more healthily, there's clearly room for improvement for many of those surveyed. The report also highlights how individual lifestyle choices have an impact on LGBT health in particular. This confirms the findings of previous studies investigating the health problems of older LGBT people. For example, compared to heterosexuals, 6% fewer LGBT respondents try to avoid harmful behaviors such as drinking too much and smoking. These are decision that may only affect a person's health later in life.

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