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07/15/2014 12:05 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

Health Survey: About 2 Percent Of Americans Are Gay Or Lesbian

A federal report released Tuesday says just 2 percent of Americans over the age of 18 identify as gay or lesbian.

The report, released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), relates to sexual orientation and health among U.S. adults.

The NCHS used statistics gathered from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), an annual health study including 34,557 adults aged 18 and over. The aim of the new survey was to determine the disparities in health-related behaviors, health status, health care service utilization, and health care access among participants based on sexual orientation.

The NHIS included sexual orientation-based questions, such as, "Which of the following best represents how you think of yourself?" Male respondents could choose from the following responses: "gay;" "straight, that is, not gay;" "bisexual;" "something else;" and "I don't know the answer." Female respondents could choose from: "lesbian or gay;" "straight, that is, not lesbian or gay;" "bisexual;" "something else;" and "I don't know the answer."

This is the first time the NHIS has "included a measure of sexual orientation, thereby enabling researchers and data users to examine how the prevalence of a wide variety of health-related behaviors" in its 57-year history.

According to the results, 96.6 percent of respondents identified as straight, 1.6 percent identified as gay or lesbian and 0.7 percent identified as bisexual. The discussion section notes, "Many of the associations between sexual orientation and various health outcomes found in this analysis are similar to those found in past research."

  • "[A] higher percentage of women aged 18–64 who identified as bisexual had experienced serious psychological distress compared with those who identified as straight..."
  • "[A] higher percentage of adults aged 18–64 who identified as gay or lesbian, or bisexual had five or more drinks in one day in the past year and were current cigarette smokers compared with adults aged 18–64 who identified as straight..."
  • "[A] lower percentage of women aged 18–64 who identified as gay or lesbian, or bisexual had a usual place to go for medical care compared with women aged 18–64 who identified as straight, whereas a lower percentage of adults aged 18–64 who identified as straight failed to obtain needed medical care due to cost compared with adults aged 18–64 who identified as bisexual."
  • "[A] higher percentage of men aged 18–64 who identified as gay received an influenza vaccination in the past year compared with men aged 18–64 who identified as straight."
  • ["A]mong men aged 18–64, a higher percentage of those who identified as gay or bisexual have ever been tested for HIV compared with those who identified as straight."

The reported number of less than 2 percent is lower than some figures released in previous years. Sex researcher Alfred Kinsey popularized the "10 percent" figure when his Kinsey Report claimed "10 percent of males were more or less exclusively homosexual" in his 1948 book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. In 2011, demographer Gary Gates reported that 9 million American adults, or 3.8 percent, identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

However, Gallup has highlighted issues with surveys and estimates that relate to sexual orientation:

There is little reliable evidence about what percentage of the U.S. population is in reality gay or lesbian, due to few representative surveys asking about sexual orientation, complexities surrounding the groups and definitions involved, and the probability that some gay and lesbian individuals may not choose to identify themselves as such.

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