1.6 Percent of U.S. Population Identifies as Gay, CDC Health Survey Finds

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 15 2014 6:23 PM

1.6 Percent of U.S. Population Identifies as Gay, CDC Health Survey Finds

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CDC releases first survey on health in the gay community.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Less than 2 percent of adult Americans identify as gay or lesbian, the CDC reported on Tuesday with the release of its first National Health Interview Survey on sexual orientation and health. The study, which aims to assess health indicators, behaviors and access to care in the gay community, found that approximately 96 percent of Americans described themselves as straight, .7 percent said they were bisexual, and just over 1 percent identified as “something else” or didn’t provide an answer.

The effort to better understand the health indicators of gay Americans is the first time the U.S. government has undertaken a broad survey of sexual orientation—interviewing more than 33,500 people ages 18 to 64—since it began conducting the survey in 1957. While other studies have found the gay population in the U.S. to be slightly higher—closer to 3 or 4 percent—“the inclusion of the sexual-orientation question in an influential survey used to guide government funding and research decisions was viewed as a major victory for the gay community, which has struggled with a dearth of data about its special health needs,” the Washington Post reports.

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Here’s more on some of the initial findings via the Post:

The information released by the CDC on Tuesday offers an initial analysis through the lens of sexual orientation on measures critical to public health, such as smoking, drinking and health insurance status.
It did not find a broad pattern suggesting that one group was less healthy overall than any other group, said Brian W. Ward, the researcher for the report. Echoing other studies, it found that, compared with straight people, gays were more likely to smoke and to have consumed five or more drinks in one day at least once in the past year. Straight women were more likely to consider themselves in excellent or very good health than women who identified as lesbian. But gays were more likely to have received a flu shot than straight people, and gay men were less likely to be overweight than straight men.
The survey did not ask about gender identity, which is a more complicated topic than sexual orientation.

Correction, July 17, 2014: This post originally misstated the percentage of interviewees who identified as “something else.”

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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