The number of older people identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual (LGB) has increased for the first time, figures show.

Proportions of people aged 65 and over in the UK who classed themselves as LGB increased from 0.7% in 2018 to 1% in 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, the general trend towards lower proportions of LGB people in older age groups remained constant, with the youngest age group accounting for one third of all LGB people in the UK.

One in 15 people aged between 16 and 24 (6.6%) identified as LGB – an increase of 2.2 percentage points since 2018.

People aged 65+ in the UK identifying as LGB
(PA Graphics)

Possible reasons for this pattern are that younger people could be more likely to explore their sexuality, combined with more social acceptability of different sexual identities and the expression of these today, according to the ONS.

This echoes an increase among the UK population as a whole – with an estimated 2.7% people aged 16 years and over identifying as LGB in 2019, up from 2.2% in 2018.

However, while increases were seen in England and Scotland, figures for Wales and Northern Ireland remained stable.

Among English regions, people in London were most likely to identify as LGB, possibly due to the younger demographic, with 3.8% placing themselves in the category in 2019, up from 2.8% in 2018.

People aged 16+ in the UK identifying as LGB
(PA Graphics)

Of the nine English regions, the east of England showed the lowest proportion of LGB people at 2.1%.

Statistician at the ONS Penelope McClure said the increase in younger people identifying as LGB is “statistically significant”.

She said: “An estimated 1.4 million people aged 16 and over in the UK identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) in 2019 – a statistically significant increase from 1.2 million in 2018 – continuing the trend we have seen over recent years.

“People aged 16 to 24 continue to be the most likely to identify as LGB, however the proportion of older adults identifying as LGB, while much smaller, is also increasing.”

Between 2018 and 2019, the number of men identifying as LGB increased from 2.5% to 2.9% and women identifying as LGB increased from 2% to 2.5%.

People aged 16-24 in the UK identifying as LGB
(PA Graphics)

The ONS study found that men were almost twice as likely as women to identify as gay, while women were more likely than men to identify as bisexual – a trend which has been continuing since 2014.

In 2019, double the proportion of LGB people were single and had never been married, at more than two-thirds, compared with just over one third of heterosexual or straight people.

The ONS said a possible reason for this difference is the younger age structure of the LGB population combined with the increase in the average age of marriage, and the fact that legal unions for same-sex couples have only been available relatively recently.

The ONS sexual orientation estimates are based on data from the Annual Population Survey (APS), which collects information on self-perceived sexual identity from people aged 16 and older in the UK.