Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people: data introduction

The following pages present information on the health of LGB people in Scotland. The pages summarise what is known about numbers of LGB people in Scotland and reviews the key data sources. Given the lack of routine data on LGB health, the section also provides a brief overview of research that provides data on LGB health in Scotland. This lack of information is not restricted to health topics. Reliable information on the size of the LGB population is absent. Although same sex co-habitation is now included in the census, questions about sexual orientation are not.

When the UK government was introducing the Civil Partnership Act 2004 an impact assessment was carried out to estimate how many people might apply for a civil partnership. The government used a variety of information sources in their Final Regulatory Impact Assessment: Civil Partnership Act 2004(119 Kb) to estimate that approximately 5-7% of the UK population might be LGB. This estimate should be used with caution. It relied on information collected in other countries that may be quite different to Scotland. Also, it is not clear how the different studies included defined sexual orientation.

The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) provides an estimate of the number of adults aged 16-74 years in Britain who have ever had same sex partners. The most recent survey (Natsal 3, Mercer et al., 2013 reported in a series of Lancet papers. The first paper covered sexual attitudes and lifestyles (400Kb). The survey did not collect information about self-identified sexual orientation so cannot be used directly to estimate the numbers of LGB people in Scotland.

We do not know exactly how many LGB people live in Scotland. The most recent estimates are obtained from the Scottish Surveys Core Questions (SSCQ) 2013 and from the Integrated Household Survey 2013(IHS). Previous national surveys carried out between 2005 and 2010 (the key source is Measuring Sexual Identity (682Kb) from the Integrated Household Survey 2009-10) have found between 1.1% and 2.4% of the UK population self-identify as LGB. It is likely that these under report the size of the LGB population in Scotland, although to what extent is unknown.

Impact on data collection

Clearly both sexual orientation and sexual behaviour are sensitive pieces of data, and collection needs to be done with care and forethought. Recording self-identified sexual orientation is of importance both in terms of individual and population health. Sexual behaviour should be recorded separately when necessary as it may not correlate with self-identified sexual orientation. The main value of recording sexual behaviour data is for sexual health care, though they may also be relevant to general health.


Please note: If you require the most up-to-date data available, please check the data sources directly as new data may have been published since these data pages were last updated. Although we endeavour to ensure that the data pages are kept up-to-date, there may be a time lag between new data being published and the relevant ScotPHO web pages being updated.