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Health: Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults are THINNER than straight people, study finds 


Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults are THINNER than straight people — but are more likely to drink too much alcohol, smoke and have worse mental health, study finds

  • Health surveys were run by the National Centre for Social Research and UCL 
  • Data was taken from 2011–18 on 58,226 adults, of whom 1,132 identified as LGB
  • LGB adults were more likely to report experiencing bad health than straights
  • They also suffer from a lower sense of overall mental wellbeing, experts found

England’s lesbian, gay and bisexual people are less likely to be overweight than their straight peers — but are more likely to suffer from poor health in many key areas.

The findings come from the 2011–2018 iterations of the Health Survey for England, which is conducted annually by the National Centre for Social Research and UCL.

Experts interviewed and assessed the health of 58,226 adults aged +16, of whom 2 per cent (1,132 people) reported identifying as either lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB).

LGB adults (seven per cent of those surveyed) were found to be more likely to report experiencing ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ health than heterosexuals (six per cent). 

They were also more likely (at 26 per cent) to suffer from a limiting longstanding illness than the straight population (at 22 per cent).

Heterosexuals, meanwhile, were found to typically enjoy a higher level of mental wellbeing, scoring an average of 51.4 on the so-called Warwick-Edinburgh Scale.

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In contrast, LGB adults received an average of only 48.9, while LGB women scored even lower with an an average of 47.3.

The researchers also found that nearly a third of LGB people tend to drink to excess, compared with just under a quarter of heterosexual adults.

However, the surveys did reveal that only 51 per cent of England’s adult LGB population is overweight or obese, compared to 63 per cent of heterosexuals.

England's lesbian, gay and bisexual people are less likely to be overweight than their straight peers — but are more likely to suffer from worse health in many key areas, a study has found

England’s lesbian, gay and bisexual people are less likely to be overweight than their straight peers — but are more likely to suffer from worse health in many key areas, a study has found

KEY FINDINGS 

  • The prevalence of limiting longstanding illness was higher among LGB adults (26 per cent) than heterosexual adults (22 per cent)
  • A lower proportion of LGB adults were overweight or obese (51 per cent) than heterosexual adults (63 per cent)
  • LGB adults had lower average mental well-being scores on the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS) (48.9) than heterosexual adults (51.4)

Other key statistics from the report included the finding that 16 per cent of LGB adults reported living with a longstanding mental, behavioural or neurodevelopmental disorder, compared to just six per cent of heterosexuals.

LGB adults were more likely (at 27 per cent) to be smokers than their heterosexual peers (at just 18 per cent). The highest proportion of adult smokers was seen among LGB women (at 31 per cent) and the lowest among straight women (at 16 per cent.)

However, the team did note that LGB adults were less likely to experience musculoskeletal conditions — such as arthritis, rheumatism or back problems — with a prevalence of just 13 per cent compared with 16 per cent of straight adults. 

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The Health Survey for England is designed to monitor trends in the nation’s health, as well as to provide estimates for the prevalence of certain conditions and their associated risk factors and behaviours across the population.

A question regarding the sexual orientation of respondents was first included in the annual survey series back in 2011 — 20 years after the research first began. 

Participants were given the choice to identify themselves as ‘heterosexual or straight’, ‘gay or lesbian’, ‘bisexual’, ‘other’ or ‘prefer not to say.’ 

More LGB adults (seven per cent) were found to be more likely to report experiencing 'bad' or 'very bad' health than heterosexuals (six per cent). They were also more likely (at 26 per cent) to suffer from a limiting longstanding illness than the straight population (at 22 per cent)

More LGB adults (seven per cent) were found to be more likely to report experiencing ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ health than heterosexuals (six per cent). They were also more likely (at 26 per cent) to suffer from a limiting longstanding illness than the straight population (at 22 per cent)

The researchers also found that nearly a third of LGB people tend to drink to excess — compared with just under a quarter of heterosexual adults. Pictured: a couple enjoys a drink

The researchers also found that nearly a third of LGB people tend to drink to excess — compared with just under a quarter of heterosexual adults. Pictured: a couple enjoys a drink

The survey can also provide health data broken down by age, ethnicity and sex. 

‘One of the biggest benefits to collecting and publishing health data is the ability to highlight health inequalities,’ said NHS Digital’s chief statistician, Chris Roebuck.

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

The full findings of the study were published on the NHS Digital website.  

THE UNDERPINNINGS OF SAME-SEX ATTRACTION 

Scientists have long sought to quantify the extent to which genetic and non-genetic (or environmental) factors impact a person’s preference for same-sex relationships.

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Previous studies had hinted that genetic factors were complex, but their relatively small scales made it hard to draw reliable conclusions.

In the new study, researchers used data from over 470,000 people, over a 100 times more than previous works.

They confirmed that homosexuality stems from both environmental and genetic factors.

Rather than their being one single ‘gay gene’, however, the team found thousands of places – or loci – in the genome that seem to play a role in sexuality.

Only five of these had a ‘significant’ impact — and, combined, all the factors accounted for only 8–25% of the variation in sexual attraction between different people.

The factors at play are so complex that is impossible to predict from a person’s DNA whether they are attracted to members of the same-sex or not.



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