Estimates of Australia's non-heterosexual population

Tom Wilson, Fiona Shalley

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Background Demographers have studied minority populations for many years, but relatively little attention has been paid to sexual minority groups. Population estimates for sexual minorities would be useful as denominators for a range of health and socioeconomic indicators, to monitor representation in employment, assist budget planning and inform the marketing of goods and services.

Aim The aim of this paper is to present some approximate estimates of the non-heterosexual adult population of Australia in mid-2016 by sex, broad age group and state and territory.

Data and methods Data on sexual identity were sourced from three nationally representative surveys: the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey, the second Australian Study of Health and Relationships and the ABS General Social Survey. Use was made also of 2016 ABS Census of Population and Housing (Census) data and Estimated Resident Populations. Prevalence rates of the non-heterosexual population aged 18+ were averaged over the three surveys and multiplied by ERP to obtain national population estimates. Census data on same-sex couples were used to distribute the national estimates by state and territory.

Results Australia’s non-heterosexual population aged 18+ in 2016 is estimated to have been 592,000, representing about 3.2% of the adult population. New South Wales is home to the largest non-heterosexual population (about 204,000) and the Northern Territory the smallest (4,700), while the highest prevalence is in the Australian Capital Territory (5.1%).

Conclusions Australia’s non-heterosexual population is a relatively small population, but its prevalence varies considerably by age and sex and between states and territories. Estimates of this population should prove useful for monitoring health and wellbeing and for a variety of planning and policy purposes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-38
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Population Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2018


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