LGBT+ health divide revealed in US census data

Daniel Wren

In the first report of its kind, the US Center for Disease Control has published the results of US Census Bureau surveys for the proportion of the population who identify as LGBT+ and non-heterosexual in the United States.

In the report Sexual Orientation and Health Among U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2013, published yesterday, 3.4% of US citizens reported that they were not heterosexual. Of these, the US Census Bureau found 1.6% of adults identified as gay or lesbian. Another 0.7% identified as bisexual, and 1.1% said ‘something else’ or refused to give an answer.

This is the first time the US census has attempted to survey sexual orientation. The Center for Disease Control had, however, previously put estimates of the US’ LGBT+ population at between 3.4% and 4%. Gallup previously did a survey in 2012 and found a similar proportion of people who identified as LGBT+ (3.4%) but a larger number of people who refused to answer or ‘didn’t know’ (4.4%).

The report also reaffirms previous studies which show greater numbers of LGBT+ people smoke than their straight counterparts with slightly more bisexual people (29.5%) smoking than gay and lesbian people (27.2%). Only 19.6% of straight people smoke.

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Similarly, LGBT+ people are more likely to drink heavily, with only 26% of heterosexual respondents drinking five or more alcoholic drinks in one day in the last year compared to 35.1% of gay or lesbian and 41.5% of bisexual people. Lesbians and bisexual women drink significantly more than straight women (27.7% for lesbian and 34.9% for bisexual woman, to 17.2% for straight women).

Both LGBT+ and heterosexual people have similar levels of health overall – although 63.3% of straight women reported higher levels of excellent to very good health compared to only 54% of lesbian and bisexual women. A higher percentage of adults aged 18–64 who identified as bisexual (11.0%) experienced serious
psychological distress in the past month compared with their counterparts who identified as straight (3.9%).

At 30.7%, more straight men aged 20–64 were obese than their gay and bisexual male counterparts (23.2%). At 40.4%, however, more bisexual women aged 20–64 were obese than straight women (28.8%).

68.7% of LGBT+ people aged 18-64 had tested for HIV in the last year. More specifically, 81.2% of gay men and 54.3% of bisexual men had tested for HIV in the last year, compared to just over a third (36.1%) of straight men. There was no discernable difference between queer women and straight women.

Fewer LGBT+ people had a regular place to get medical treatment (72.5%) than their straight peers (81%). More lesbian and bisexual women (15.2%) were unable to get needed medical care than their straight peers (9.6%). Fewer gay and bisexual men (15.7%) were without medical insurance, however, than their straight peers (21.9%).

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The report, while thorough, fails to identify any health differences between cis and trans people.

Read the full report at the Center for Disease Control website.

About Daniel Wren

Vada Magazine staff writer. Interested in travel, news, politics and dating.