The FINANCIAL - An estimated 1.4 million people in UK aged 16 years and over identified as lesbian, LGB in 2019

An estimated 1.4 million people in UK aged 16 years and over identified as lesbian, LGB in 2019

An estimated 1.4 million people in UK aged 16 years and over identified as lesbian, LGB in 2019

The FINANCIAL -- The proportion of the UK population aged 16 years and over identifying as heterosexual or straight decreased from 94.6% in 2018 to 93.7% in 2019.

An estimated 2.7% of the UK population aged 16 years and over identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) in 2019, an increase from 2.2% in 2018.

Between 2018 and 2019, the number of men identifying as LGB increased from 2.5% to 2.9% and women identifying as LGB increased from 2.0% to 2.5%.

Younger people (aged 16 to 24 years) were most likely to identify as LGB in 2019 (6.6% of all 16 to 24 year olds, an increase from 4.4% in 2018); older people (aged 65 years and over) also showed an increase in those identifying as LGB, from 0.7% to 1.0% of this age category.

Between 2018 and 2019, the proportion of people who identified as LGB increased for England (2.7%, up from 2.3%) and Scotland (2.7%, up from 2.0%), however Wales (2.9%) and Northern Ireland (1.3%) remained stable; among English regions, people in London were most likely to identify as LGB (3.8%, an increase from 2.8%).
Statistician’s comment

"An estimated 1.4 million people aged 16 and over in the UK identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) in 2019 - a statistically significant increase from 1.2 million in 2018 - continuing the trend we have seen over recent years.

“People aged 16 to 24 continue to be the most likely to identify as LGB, however the proportion of older adults identifying as LGB, while much smaller, is also increasing.”

Sexual orientation in the UK

In 2019, the proportion of the UK population aged 16 years and over identifying as heterosexual or straight decreased from an estimated 94.6% in 2018 to 93.7% in 2019 (an estimated 49.9 million). This represents a continuation of the decreasing trend since 2015, when 95.2% of the population identified themselves as heterosexual or straight


An estimated 1.4 million people aged 16 years and over (2.7% of the UK population) identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) in 2019, an increase from 1.2 million (2.2%) in 2018. The LGB population comprised 1.6% identifying as gay or lesbian and 1.1% as bisexual (Figure 1).

Between 2018 and 2019, there was an increase in those who stated “Don’t know” or refused to answer, from 2.5% to 3.0% (1.6 million).


Distribution by sex

In 2019, the proportion of men identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) increased from 2.5% to 2.9% (754,000) and women identifying as LGB rose from 2.0% to 2.5% (677,000) (see Figure 2). Men (2.1%) were almost twice as likely than women (1.1%) to identify as gay or lesbian. Conversely, women (1.4%) were more likely than men (0.8%) to identify as bisexual. This represents a continuation of trends observed since 2014.

Distribution by age

Of all age groups, younger people (aged 16 to 24 years) were most likely to identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) in 2019 (an estimated 459,000, or 6.6% of 16 to 24 year olds, an increase from 4.4% in 2018). People aged 16 to 24 years who identify as LGB continue to be more likely to identify as bisexual than as lesbian or gay. However, for other age groups it is more common to identify as lesbian or gay than bisexual.

The proportion of the UK population identifying as LGB in 2019 decreased with each consecutive age group. A greater proportion of the LGB population are aged 16 to 24 years compared with the population as a whole, with almost one-third of people identifying as LGB falling into this age group (Figure 3). Possible reasons for this pattern are that younger people could be more likely to explore their sexuality, combined with more social acceptability of different sexual identities and the expression of these today.

However, for the first time, older people (aged 65 years and over) also showed an increase in those identifying as LGB. This rose from 0.7% in 2018 to 1.0% in 2019 of this age category (120,000, from a population of 12.0 million).


UK countries and English regions

Between 2018 and 2019, the estimated proportion of people who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) increased for England (2.7%, up from 2.3%) and Scotland (2.7%, up from 2.0%). Wales (2.9%) and Northern Ireland (1.3%) remained stable. The overall UK proportion in 2019 was 2.7%, which has increased from 2.2% in 2018.

In 2019, the proportion of people within each English region identifying as LGB ranged from 3.8% in London to 2.1% in the east of England (Figure 4). Of the nine regions, only London showed a statistically significant difference in the proportion of people identifying as LGB to the other regions, which may be partly explained by the younger age structure of the London population.

The only regions in England to show a statistically significant change since 2018 were London (from 2.8% to 3.8%) and the south east (from 2.2% to 2.9%).


Legal partnership status

Among those identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) in 2019, more than two-thirds (68.8%) 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 had never entered into a legal partnership (34.4%). 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 relatively 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.

Table 1: Most people in the UK identify as heterosexual or straight
Sexual orientation, UK, 2015 to 2019 (percentage)
Sexual orientation 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Heterosexual or
straight
95.2 95.0 95.0 94.6 93.7
Gay or
lesbian
1.2 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.6
Bisexual 0.7 0.8 0.8 0.9 1.1
Other 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.6 0.7
Do not know
or refuse
2.6 2.5 2.3 2.5 3.0

Source: Office for National Statistics – Annual Population Survey

Author: The FINANCIAL


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