The first ever NHS study of the health and well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults has found that LGB people were more likely to drink at harmful levels than heterosexual adults and more likely to be smokers.
The unique report has been published by NHS Digital and is based on data collected between 2011 and 2018. 58,200 adults participated in the Health Surveys for England (HSE) in the 7 year period. The National Centre for Social Research analysis found 1,130 (2%) 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.
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.
More LGB adults (27%) than heterosexual adults (18%) were current smokers. The proportion of adults who currently smoked cigarettes was highest among lesbians at 31% and lowest among heterosexual women at 16%.
The report – “Health and health-related behaviours of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual adults” – found that the prevalence of limiting longstanding illness was higher among LGB adults at 26% compared with heterosexual adults at 22%.
LGB adults were more likely to report having a longstanding mental illness such as anxiety or depression, or a learning disability than heterosexual adults.
A lower proportion of LGB adults were overweight or obese (51%) than heterosexual adults (63%).
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%).
LGB adults were more likely to report having a longstanding mental illness such as anxiety or depression, or a learning disability than heterosexual adults. LGB people had lower average mental well-being scores on the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (48.9) than heterosexual adults (51.4) with lesbians reporting the lowest well-being scores (47.3).
A slightly larger proportion of LGB adults than heterosexual adults reported ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ health, 7% to 6% respectively.
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.”
“It is vital that primary care staff, including GPs, use this data to provide effective outreach and care for their lesbian, gay and bisexual patients – a demographic already known to suffer from horizontal health inequalities.”
Bev Jackson, co-founder of LGB Alliance, the charity founded to advance the rights of same-sex attracted people, said: “Having accurate information is the first and most important step towards reducing inequalities, so we welcome the NHS’s publication of LGB-specific health data for the first time.
“The figures confirm that LGB people are more likely to smoke or to drink at levels that put them at higher risk of harm. Meanwhile, it reveals glaring inequalities in mental wellbeing, especially among lesbian and bisexual women.
“Having gathered this data, it would be a tragedy to let it go to waste. It is vital that primary care staff, including GPs, use this data to provide effective outreach and care for their lesbian, gay and bisexual patients – a demographic already known to suffer from horizontal health inequalities.”
The full NHS Digital report can be found here: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/health-survey-england-additional-analyses/lesbian-gay-and-bisexual-adults