The FINANCIAL -- The proportion of the UK population aged 16 years and over identifying as heterosexual or straight decreased from 95.3% in 2014 to 94.6% in 2018.
The proportion identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) increased from 1.6% in 2014 to 2.2% in 2018, according to Office for National Statistics.
Men (2.5%) were more likely to identify as LGB than women (2.0%) in 2018. Younger people (aged 16 to 24 years) were most likely to identify as LGB in 2018 (4.4%).
Among English regions, people in London were most likely to identify as LGB (2.8%), with people in the North East the least likely (1.8%). More than two-thirds (68.7%) of people who identified as LGB were single (never married or in a civil partnership).
“People in their late teens and early twenties are more likely to identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) than older age groups.
“Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of the LGB population are single (never married or entered into a civil partnership). This reflects the younger age structure of this population, the changing attitudes of the general population to marriage and the fact that legal unions have only recently been available for same-sex couples.”Sophie Sanders, Population Statistics Division, Office for National Statistics.
Sexual orientation in the UK
In 2018, an estimated 94.6% of the UK population aged 16 years and over (53.0 million people) identified as heterosexual or straight. This represents a continuation of the decrease seen since 2014, when 95.3% of the population identified themselves as heterosexual or straight (Table 1).
An estimated 2.2% of the population aged 16 years and over (1.2 million people) identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) in 2018; this is comprised of 1.4% identifying as gay or lesbian and 0.9% as bisexual (see Table 1, note 3). The proportion of the population identifying as LGB increased from 1.6% in 2014 to 2.2% in 2018 (Figure 1).
A higher proportion of men than women identify as LGB
In 2018, 2.5% of men identified themselves as LGB, compared with 2.0% of women. More than twice the proportion of men (1.9%) compared with women (0.9%) identified as gay or lesbian (Figure 2). Conversely, a higher proportion of women than men identified as bisexual, at 1.1% and 0.6% respectively. This represents a continuation of a trend that has been observed back to 2014, where a higher proportion of men than women identify as gay or lesbian and a higher proportion of women than men identify as bisexual.
Sexual orientation by age
In 2018, people aged 16 to 24 years were more likely to identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) than other age groups.
People in each successively older age group were less likely to identify as LGB than those in the preceding younger age group in 2018 (Figure 3). Of the population aged 16 years and over, 20.9% of men and 23.4% of women are aged 65 years and over. However, only 6.7% of men and 7.4% of women who identified as LGB were aged 65 years and over. A possible reason for this pattern is that younger people could be more likely to explore their sexuality combined with more social acceptability of different sexual identities and the ability to express these today.
Sexual orientation by UK countries and English regions
In 2018, the percentage of people who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) was similar for England (2.3%), Wales (2.4%) and Scotland (2.0%).
For Northern Ireland, the percentage of people identifying themselves as LGB in 2018 was 1.2%. The UK average in 2018 was 2.2%, which has increased from 1.6% in 2014 (Figure 4).
People in London are most likely to identify as LGB
In 2018, a higher proportion of people in London (2.8%) identified as LGB than in other regions of England. The North East had the lowest proportion (1.8%).
The higher proportion of people identifying as LGB in London may be explained by the younger age structure of the population. The median age of the population in London was 35.3 years in 2018, compared with 41.8 years in the North East of England.
The East Midlands and West Midlands were the regions that saw the largest change in the proportion of people identifying as LGB over the last four years, with both increasing from 2014 to 2018 (from 1.2% to 2.2% and 1.3% to 2.3% respectively).
Sexual orientation by marital status
Among those identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) in 2018, more than two-thirds (68.7%) were single, meaning that they had never married or entered into a civil partnership. This is double the proportion of those who identified as heterosexual or straight and were single (34.2%). A possible reason for this difference is the younger age structure of the LGB population combined with the increase in the average age of marriage.
Furthermore, legal unions for same-sex couples have only become available recently; civil partnerships were introduced for same-sex couples in the UK in December 2005, and same-sex marriage has been available in England, Wales and Scotland since 2014 and in Northern Ireland from 2020.
More couples are choosing to live together before or instead of marriage. Those with a legal marital status of single may live with a partner of the same or opposite sex. Same-sex cohabiting couples are the most common type of same-sex couple family, accounting for just over half of same-sex families in 2019.
From 2014 to 2018, the proportion of people identifying as LGB who were in same-sex marriages increased from 0.8% to 7.3%, while those in civil partnerships decreased from 12.3% to 6.5% (Figure 6). This suggests that since its introduction in 2014, an increasing number of people who identify as LGB are choosing to enter a same-sex marriage rather than a civil partnership or to convert their civil partnership to a same-sex marriage.