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National representative data on the health of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults in England published for the first time

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A first of its kind report has been published today by NHS Digital on the health outcomes and health behaviours of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults.

The data is based on a representative sample of adults aged 16 and over who participated in the Health Survey for England (HSE) between 2011–2018. Breakdowns by age, ethnicity and sex are also covered in the report.

The National Centre for Social Research’s (NatCen) analysis found that 2% (1,132) of adults surveyed over the eight years identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Data from this period has now been brought together on conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, weight, smoking and drinking. A summary of the findings is below:

Health:

A higher proportion of LGB adults (7%) reported ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ health compared with heterosexual adults (6%).

A lower proportion of LGB adults were overweight or obese (51%) than heterosexual adults (63%).

The prevalence of limiting longstanding illness was higher among LGB adults (26%) compared with heterosexual adults (22%).

The prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions (including arthritis/rheumatism/fibrositis and back problems/slipped disc/spine/neck) was lower in LGB adults (13%) compared with heterosexual adults (16%).

Health-related behaviours:

LGB adults were more likely to drink at levels which put them at increased or higher risk of alcohol-related harm, (that is more than 14 units in the last week): 32% of LGB adults compared with 24% of heterosexual adults.

Among the white population, heterosexual and LGB adults were equally likely to report that they drank no alcohol in the last week (35% and 33% respectively). Among those from an ethnic minority, heterosexual adults were more likely to report no alcohol consumption in the last week (71%) compared to LGB adults (55%).

More LGB adults (27%) than heterosexual adults (18%) were current smokers. The proportion of adults who currently smoked cigarettes was highest among LGB women at 31% and lowest among heterosexual women at 16%.

Mental health and wellbeing:

LGB adults had lower average mental well-being scores on the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS) (48.9) compared with heterosexual adults (51.4), with LGB women reporting the lowest well-being scores (47.3).

16% of LGB adults said they had a mental, behavioural or neurodevelopmental disorder as a longstanding condition. The proportion of heterosexual adults reporting the same was lower at 6%.

NHS Digital’s Chief Statistician Chris Roebuck said: “One of the biggest benefits to collecting and publishing health data is the ability to highlight health inequalities.

“We’re pleased to be able to publish these LGB statistics for the first time, which show important differences in health status and behaviours.”

The HSE series was designed to monitor trends in the nation’s health; estimating the proportion of people in England who have specified health conditions, and the prevalence of risk factors and behaviours associated with these conditions.

It is commissioned by NHS Digital and carried out by NatCen in conjunction with University College London (UCL). NatCen authored this report.

This publication is classed as experimental statistics and feedback is welcome here: enquiries@nhsdigital.nhs.uk Please reference “Health Survey for England Additional Analyses – Health and health-related behaviours of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults” in the title of the email.

View the publication

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