New sexual identity wellbeing data reflects diversity of New Zealanders

For the first time, wellbeing data for people of different sexual identities has been collected as part of the 2018 General Social Survey (GSS), Stats NZ said today.

This information is an important step towards better reflecting the diversity across New Zealand in official statistics.

“The new question in the GSS helps us understand the wellbeing of Kiwis of different sexual identities,” general manager Jason Attewell said.

“This data highlights wellbeing disparities between groups and will aid policymakers working to better address these concerns.”

A person’s sexual identity is how they think of their own sexuality and which terms they identify with. In the 2018 GSS, the majority of New Zealand adults identified as heterosexual or straight (96.5 percent), with 1.9 percent identifying as bisexual, and 1.1 percent as gay/lesbian. The remaining 0.5 percent identified as other identities, which includes terms such as takatāpui, asexual, and pansexual, among others. The proportions of gay/lesbian and bisexual people reported in the 2018 GSS are consistent with those reported by the New Zealand Health Survey.

“We acknowledge that people’s responses to some questions could be biased when they are not absolutely anonymous,” Mr Attewell said.

“As GSS data is collected via a face-to face interview, it may underestimate the true proportion of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in New Zealand, but we are working to address this.”

A small proportion of people (about half a percent) did not respond to the sexual identity question – either because they did not know or declined to answer during the face-to-face interview. These people have not been included in this analysis.

Almost 7 in 10 of those who identified as bisexual were female, while 6 in 10 people identifying as gay/lesbian were male.

Young people aged 18-24 were more likely to identify as bisexual or gay/lesbian than any other age group, and most of these identified as bisexual.

Gay/Lesbian Bisexual
18-24 0.8 5.4
25-44 1.5 2.6
45-64 1.2 0.9
65+ 0.6 0.1

Bisexual people less satisfied with life

New Zealanders were generally satisfied with life, with eight out of 10 adults rating their overall life satisfaction as 7 to 10 on a 0-10 scale. This high level of life satisfaction was shared by people who identified as straight/heterosexual and gay/lesbian. However, only six out of 10 bisexual people rated their life satisfaction as 7 or above. The lower life satisfaction rating for people identifying as bisexual was reflected across a number of wellbeing measures.

Text alternative for overall life satisfaction by sexual identity, 2018/19

One-third of bisexual people report poor mental wellbeing

While the majority of New Zealanders have good mental wellbeing, around 23 percent of adults experienced ‘poor’ mental wellbeing on the World Health Organisation’s WHO-5 scale, which was included for the first time in GSS 2018. However, one-third (35 percent) of those identifying as bisexual experienced ‘poor’ mental wellbeing and one fifth of straight/heterosexual and gay/lesbian people (22 percent and 21 percent, respectively).

Bisexual people were more accepting of others suffering from mental illness, with 75 percent saying they were comfortable living next door to someone with a mental illness. In contrast, 63 percent of gay/lesbian and 54 percent of straight/heterosexual people said they’d be comfortable with the same.

Gay/lesbian and bisexual people find it harder to express their identity

People who identified as gay/lesbian or bisexual found it significantly harder to express their identity than those identifying as straight/heterosexual. 74 percent of gay/lesbian, and 70 percent of bisexual people found it easy or very easy to express their identity, compared with 85 percent of straight people.

Gay/lesbian and bisexual people were also more likely to say they had been discriminated against. A third (34 percent) of gay/lesbian people and 39 percent of bisexual people reported they were discriminated against in the last year, compared with 16 percent of people identifying as straight or heterosexual.

Gay/lesbian people the most socially connected with friends and less lonely

People identifying as gay/lesbian were the most social group, with 86 percent connecting with their friends face-to-face each week, and 92 percent catching up remotely.

People identifying as gay/lesbian and straight/heterosexual were less likely to report feeling lonely. Two-thirds (66 percent) of gay/lesbian people and 62 percent of straight/heterosexual people said they had not been lonely at all in the past month. Bisexual people, however, fared worse, with less than a third (30 percent) reporting that they had not been lonely at all in the past month.

Text alternative for loneliness by sexual identity, 2018/19

Most straight/heterosexual and gay/lesbian people thought it would be easy or very easy to find someone to talk to about feelings of sadness or depression (70 percent), compared with just 52 percent of bisexual people.

Improving data on gender and sexual identity

Respondents to this survey, run in 2018/19, were asked “Are you male/female?”, limiting them to these binary options. Starting this year, gender inclusive questions will be introduced to Stats NZ household surveys, allowing the gender diversity of New Zealanders to be better reflected in future statistics.

We are introducing a solution to let respondents self-complete some core demographic questions in household surveys, including those on sex-at-birth, gender identity, and sexual identity, in line with international best practice.

More information

New Zealand General Social Survey – DataInfo+ has more information about how this data was collected.

Statistical standard for sexual identity has concepts and definitions for sexual identity data.

Framework for sexual orientation outlines the components, related definitions, and scope of the concept of sexual orientation.

We welcome your feedback

This is the first time that Stats NZ has collected data about New Zealander’s sexual identity. If you have feedback about the way we have collected and used the data, please email [email protected].

Mental health services

Here are some resources if you’d like to speak with someone after reading this article.

  • Need to talk? (1737 – free call or text) – 24/7 free national counselling service staffed by paid counsellors.
  • Lifeline (0800 543 354) – Calls and text messages are answered by qualified counsellors and well-trained volunteers 24/7.
  • Youthline (0800 376 633) – Service available 24/7 for any young person in New Zealand, or anyone who is supporting a young person.
  • 0800 OUTLINE (688 5463) – A free nationwide phone counselling service staffed by trained volunteers.

Text alternative for overall life satisfaction by sexual identity, 2018/19

This bar graph shows that for New Zealanders who identify as straight/heterosexual, 16.7 percent rated their overall life satisfaction as 10 out of 10, 15.3 percent as 9 out of 10, 30.5 percent as 8 out of 10, 18.8 percent as 7 out of 10, and 18.7 percent as 0-6 out of 10. For those who identify as gay/lesbian, 14.4 percent rated their overall life satisfaction as 10 out of 10, 14.5 percent as 9 out of 10, 27.6 percent as 8 out of 10, 27.0 percent as 7 out of 10, and 16.5 percent as 0-6 out of 10. For those who identify as bisexual, 8.9 percent rated their overall life satisfaction as 10 out of 10, 4.4 percent as 9 out of 10, 24.7 percent as 8 out of 10, 24.2 percent as 7 out of 10, and 37.8 percent as 0-6 out of 10. For those who identify as other identities, 12.6 percent rated their overall life satisfaction as 10 out of 10, 7.4 percent as 9 out of 10, 26.0 percent as 8 out of 10, 23.1 percent as 7 out of 10, and 31.0 percent as 0-6 out of 10.

Text alternative for loneliness by sexual identity, 2018/19

This bar graph shows that for New Zealanders who identify as straight/heterosexual, 61.9 percent were lonely none of the time, 22.2 percent were lonely a little of the time, 12.7 percent were lonely some of the time, and 3.2 percent were lonely most or all of the time. For those who identify as gay/lesbian, 65.6 percent were lonely none of the time, 19.2 percent were lonely a little of the time, 12.8 percent were lonely some of the time, and 2.4 percent were lonely most or all of the time. For those who identify as bisexual, 29.6 percent were lonely none of the time, 32.7 percent were lonely a little of the time, 26.7 percent were lonely some of the time, and 11.1 percent were lonely most or all of the time. For those who identify as other identities, 47.7 percent were lonely none of the time, 16.1 percent were lonely a little of the time, 24.2 percent were lonely some of the time, and 12.0 percent were lonely most or all of the time.

/Stats NZ Public Release. View in full here.