Sexual Orientation

There is also no definitive reliable estimate of the size of the Lesbian, Gay and Bi-sexual (LGB) population locally or nationally. A number of estimates exist, and a frequently cited estimate is that 5-7% of the population are LGB (Department of Trade and Industry 2004), leading to an estimated population of approximately 47,600 – 66,600 LGB people in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay. The Integrated Household Survey introduced a sexual identity question in 2009. The 2011-12 survey found that 1.5% of adults in the UK identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual which would equate to around 10,000 people in Devon. Prevalence differed by age with 2.7% of 16 to 24 year olds in the UK identifying themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual compared with 0.4% of those aged 65 and over.

Health, Care and Wellbeing Needs

The 2012 South West survey, ‘Pride, Progress and Transformation’, identified mental health (45%), followed by sexual health (35%), as their most frequent health concerns. However, over half did not believe the issues they had identified were directly related to their gender or sexual identity (Equality South West 2012).

Mental health

Despite similar levels of social support and quality of physical health, gay men and lesbians report more psychological distress than heterosexuals (King 2003).

Depression is twice as likely and anxiety 1.5 times more likely in lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals than in heterosexual individuals (King 2008).

Lifetime prevalence of deliberate self-harm is higher in lesbian and bisexual women, than heterosexual women (King 2008). Nationally, rates of reported self-harm are higher amongst bisexual people than gay men and lesbians (Guasp 2012), and higher amongst lesbian, gay and bisexual disabled people compared to lesbian, gay and bisexual people who are not disabled (Guasp 2012).

Both lifetime prevalence of suicidal ideation and suicidal attempts in lesbian, gay and bisexual people are twice as high as in heterosexual people (King 2008).

High levels of social isolation have also been reported among lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

Sexual health

Devon is defined as an area of low HIV prevalence (in all transmission groups) with a prevalence of <2 per 1,000 population (crude rate 0.69 per 1,000 population). Men who have sex with men remain the group most frequently affected by HIV infection, with a prevalence of 47 per 1,000 population (2012), with an estimated 18% of these unaware of their infection. High levels of transmission and an increase in testing have resulted in new diagnoses among men who have sex with men continuing to rise. People living with HIV can expect a near normal life expectancy and better clinical outcomes if diagnosed promptly. Late diagnosis is the most important clinical predictor of morbidity and mortality among those living with HIV infection.

Less than half of lesbian and bisexual women have reported being tested for sexually transmitted infections, but over half of those who have been tested have been diagnosed with an infection. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is becoming increasing prevalent in men who have sex with men and can be a causal factor in anal and genital cancers. HPV vaccination is currently only available to younger females, although the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is investigating extending the vaccination programme nationally to men who have sex with men attending sexual health clinics.
Other issues

Risk factors such as smoking and alcohol and substance misuse are more common in the lesbian, gay and bisexual population than in the heterosexual population, with alcohol dependence is more than twice as likely and drug dependence almost three times as likely.

There is some evidence there are high levels of homelessness among lesbian, gay and bisexual young people.

Further Information