Same-sex attraction is far more common among women than men, a new study by New Zealand’s Ministry of Health has learned.
It found that one in six women (17.6 percent) experience same-sex attraction at some point in their lives, compared to one in 20 men (5.4 percent) .
However, it appears that many women do not act on that attraction, as only one in 15 women reported ever having a same-gender sexual partner compared to almost one in 20 men.
The study is New Zealand‘s first-ever major sexual health survey. “It offers the most comprehensive picture of contemporary adult sexuality to date,” said Dr Peter Saxton, director of the Gay Men’s Sexual Health research group at the University of Auckland.
“Using this wealth of data, we can estimate the size of the gay and bisexual community for public health campaigns like HIV prevention. We can monitor health inequalities experienced by gay and bisexual individuals.”
The survey was conducted in 2014, but findings were released on Friday. In total 10,168 people aged 16 to 74 years were asked about their sexual experiences over different time periods. The questions covered three aspects of sexual orientation – sexual attraction, sexual behaviour and sexual identity.
Same-sex attraction was found in every age and ethnic group, and in all neighbourhoods, but Māori women were more likely than non-Māori women to have ever had a same-gender partner.
It also found that men in the most deprived neighbourhoods were more likely to identify as bisexual than men in the least deprived.
“This reinforces that people with a minority sexual orientation come from all walks of life in New Zealand, and we are present in all communities,” Saxton said.
Extrapolating for New Zealand’s population, 46,000 men and women identified as gay or lesbian, 72,000 as bisexual, and 21,000 as an ‘other’ sexual identity, the survey stated.
“Counting a population is such a fundamental part of being recognised in public health and social service delivery,” Saxton added.
“Now we have to help sexual orientation minorities become visible, come forward, be included and receive healthcare that’s appropriate to their needs.”