Perceived Threat of COVID-19 Among Sexual Minority and Heterosexual Women

Emma C. Potter, Doyle P. Tate, Charlotte J. Patterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is a novel virus that has infected millions of people around the world. In this work, we studied whether women’s appraisal of the threat of COVID-19 in the United States varied as a function of sexual identity, and if so, why? Using an online survey that was fielded in early May 2020, we collected data on perceived threat of COVID-19 from 493 cisgender women living in the United States. We used a novel assessment of perceived threat of COVID-19 (a= .89) and also examined demographic, health, and exposure variables as potential predictors and mediators of perceived threat. As expected, results showed that lesbian (n= 141) and bisexual (n= 155) women regarded COVID-19 as a more serious threat (µheterosexual = 10.7, µlesbian = 12.0, µbisexual = 12.5) than did heterosexual women (n= 197). The magnitude of the difference between sexual minority and heterosexual women was attenuated to some degree by measures of exposure. Network exposure explained differences fully for lesbian women, but only partially for bisexual women. For employed women, workplace environment (rather than network exposure) fully explained difference for lesbian women. Differences in perceived threat as a function of sexual identity remained significant for bisexual women regardless of predictors. We conclude that sexual minority women perceived the COVID-19 pandemic as a greater threat than did heterosexual women, and that this was partially associated with their exposure to COVID-19. Beyond this, however, much remains to be learned about factors underlying and resulting from women’s views of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-200
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Psychology(all)


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