More US Adults Identifying as Bisexual, CDC Finds

Megan Brooks

January 12, 2016

There has been an uptick in the number of men and women who regard themselves as bisexual, with women far more likely than men to report same-sex sexual behavior, according to updated statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The new statistics, published online January 7 in the CDC's National Health Statistics Reports, are based on responses from 5010 women and 4165 men aged 18 to 44 years who took part in the 2011-2013 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG).

Estimates of sexual behaviors, sexual attraction, and sexual orientation among women and men aged 18 to 44 years were "generally similar" between the 2011-2013 and 2006-2010 NSFG, report Casey Copen, PhD, and colleagues in the CDC's Division of Vital Statistics.

However, "significantly higher" percentages of women in the 2011-2013 NSFG reported ever having had same-sex sexual contact (17.4%) compared with women in the earlier NSFG (14.2%), and more women (5.5%) and men (2.0%) in the 2011-2013 NSFG said they were bisexual compared with women (3.9%) and men (1.2%) in the earlier survey.

In the latest survey, almost three times as many women as men reported any same-sex contact in their lifetime (17.4% vs 6.2%).

Overall, 92.3% of women and 95.1% of men aged 18 to 44 years identified themselves as "heterosexual or straight"; 7.7% of women and 4.9% of men reported a sexual orientation other than heterosexual or straight, including 1.3% of women and 1.9% of men who said they were "homosexual, gay, or lesbian," 5.5% of women and 2.0% of men who said they were bisexual, and 0.9% of women and 1.0% of men who said "don't know" or did not report on sexual orientation.

Feelings of attraction "only to the opposite sex" were more common for men (92.1%) than women (81.0%) aged 18 to 44 years.

"Sexual attraction and sexual orientation correlate closely but not completely with reports of sexual behavior. Sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual orientation vary by age, marital or cohabiting status, education, and race and Hispanic origin," Dr Copen and colleagues note.

Having accurate and up-to-date information on sexual behavior, attraction, and orientation may help to identify populations at risk for sexually transmitted infections or HIV in the United States and to better target health-related programs and interventions, they say.

They note that variation in estimates of sexual behavior and sexual orientation across surveys may stem from differences in how the questions were worded and survey design. They also note that the updated figures include data from NSFG from 2 years of data collection, "resulting in relatively small sample sizes that may yield unreliable estimates for key demographic subgroups. Readers should exercise caution when drawing conclusions for sexual minority populations. More detailed subgroup analysis will be possible when the next data files, covering 4 years of data collection for 2011-2015, are released," they write.

Natl Health Stat Report. Published online January 7, 2016. Full text


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