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Fed Health Survey Asks: How Many Americans Are Gay?

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Image: Skinner and her wife Belka wait for the beginning of the Utah Pride Parade in Salt Lake City
Ann Skinner, left, and her wife, Sheila Belka, wait for the beginning of the Utah Pride Parade in Salt Lake City on June 8.JIM URQUHART / Reuters

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It’s official: Just under 2 percent of Americans say they are gay or lesbians and just under 1 percent say they’re bisexual. The first federal health survey to look at the question of sexuality finds that 96.6 percent of Americans declare they are heterosexual, or straight. Another 1 percent won’t say. The survey by the National Center for Health Statistics shows significant differences in health risks, also. People who say they are gay, lesbian or bisexual are also more likely to smoke and binge drink. But they also exercise more than straight Americans. They survey found that 26 percent of gays and lesbians smoke, compared to 18 percent who identified as straight and 29 percent of bisexual. And 33 percent of homosexuals say they had five or more drinks in a single day over the past year — the formal definition of binge-drinking — compared to 22 percent of straight people and nearly 40 percent of bisexuals. But gay people are fitter, NCHS’s Brian Ward and colleagues found. The survey found 56 percent of gays or lesbians met the federal guidelines for exercise — 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise — compared to 49 percent of straight people.

IN-DEPTH:

- Maggie Fox

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