US: 3.4% of adults do not identify as straight, health survey finds

Ashley Chhibber July 15, 2014
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The US government’s first comprehensive health survey into sexuality has found that 3.4 percent of adults do not identify themselves as being heterosexual.

According to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), 1.6 percent of adults surveyed self-identify as gay or lesbian, while 0.7 percent self-identifying as bisexual. 96.6 percent self-identified as straight. A further 1.1 percent declined to answer, with some saying that they did not know or did not fit into any of those categories.

The figure for those who identify as bisexual is lower than previous estimates, such as the 2008 General Social Survey, which placed the figure at 1.1 percent.

“There’s a variety of factors that could come into play, and we don’t have an answer right now,” said Brian W. Ward, the researcher for the report. “It’s something we are looking at.”

Judy Bradford, director of the Fenway Institute’s Center for Population Research in LGBT Health, added: “We just don’t know much about bisexuality right now, and we’re finally starting to do some research in that area.”

This is the first time in 57 years that the NHIS, which is conducted for the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by the Census Bureau, has included a measure of sexual orientation. It did not ask about gender identity, due to the need for a larger sample size and far broader range of terms to collect accurate data.

Gary J. Gates, of the University of California’s Williams Institute, commented: “This is a major step forward in trying to remedy some of these gaps in our understanding of the role sexual orientation and gender identity play in people’s health and in their lives.”

The report also found that LGB people are more likely to smoke (26 percent) and drink heavily (33 percent) than their heterosexual counterparts (18 percent and 22 percent respectively), but that they were also more likely to meet federal exercise guidelines (56 percent, compared with 49 percent of straight respondents).

It found that 67 percent of the gay population have been tested for HIV at least once, compared to 37 percent of the straight population.

The recent demographic figures are similar to those in the 2012 Gallup report, published by the Williams Institute, which found that 3.4 percent of US adults self-identified as LGBT, although a further 4.4 percent declined to answer. These estimates are lower than those of the 2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, which reported that 7 percent of women and 8 percent of men identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

The figure is slightly higher than in the UK, where the ONS Integrated Household Survey 2012 found that 1.5 percent of the adult population self-identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual. A further 4.2 percent did not know or declined to answer.

More: bisexual, demographics, Gay, heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, National Health Interview Survey, Sexuality, survey, US

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