More than one million people in the UK over the age of 16 now identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB), new official statistics on sexual identity show.
Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that in 2016, 2.0% of the UK population aged 16 and over identified themselves as LGB. This was up from 1.7% in 2015, which the researchers called a “statistically significant increase”.
The figures also identify a shift in geographical divide. People from England were more likely to identify as LGB than any other UK country in 2015, but this switched to Scotland for 2016.
However, London remained the overall region where the largest proportion of the population identified as LGB (2.7%) for the second year in a row.
The statistics indicate the the majority of the UK population still identifies as heterosexual or straight.
In 2016, 93.4% of the UK population identified as heterosexual or straight while 2.0% of the population identified themselves as LGB. This comprised of:
:: 1.2% identifying as gay or lesbian
:: 0.8% identifying as bisexual
A further 0.5% of the population identified themselves as “Other”, which means that they did not consider themselves to fit into the heterosexual or straight, bisexual, gay or lesbian categories. A further 4.1% refused to confirm their sexuality, or did not know how to identify themselves.
People aged 16 to 24 were found to be more likely to identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual than any other age group.
In 2016, 4.1% of the population aged 16 to 24 identified as LGB compared to 2.9% of 25 to 34 year olds and 0.7% of the population aged 65 and over.
The 16 to 24 category was also the only age group to have a larger proportion identifying as bisexual (2.4%) compared with lesbian or gay (1.7%).
The proportion of the population identifying as LGB in Scotland increased from 1.6% in 2015 to 2.2% in 2016, making it the UK country with the highest LGB identifying percentage.
Overall, London has the highest percentage of the population who identify as LGB of any English region.
Around 2.7% of the population in London identified themselves as LGB in 2016, which could be explained by the “younger age structure or the diversity of the population of London”, the researchers said.
The North West had the second highest proportion of the English population identifying as LGB, at 2.3%. In contrast the East of England had the lowest proportion, where just 1.2% of the population identified as LGB. The researchers said “this could be associated with an older age structure of the population”.
In response to the data, a spokesperson from LGBT rights charity Stonewall said it’s important to recognise the context in which the research was gathered.
“Although people may feel comfortable answering an anonymous survey, they may struggle to open up about their identity with friends, family or colleagues,” they said.
“To ensure that LGBT people feel safe and supported, it is vital to recognise the discrimination and anti-LGBT abuse that still exists.
“Our recent hate crime research shows that one in five LGBT people (21%) have experienced a hate crime or incident due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months.”
In light of this, the charity is encouraging allies to ‘Come Out for LGBT’ and support equality for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people “so we can achieve acceptance without exception”.