One in 15 British people have changed their sexual orientation – in six years

Cultural revolution in the West

Published 17 July 2023
- By Editorial Staff
Few heterosexuals changed their orientation.

More than six percent of people in the United Kingdom have changed their sexual orientation in six years, according to a new survey. Younger people and those over 65 were most likely to change their orientation, and it was more common among the country’s ethnic minorities.

A new study from Lancaster University in the UK, in collaboration with the University of Alberta in Canada, looked at people’s sexual orientation and how it changed over time. Using data from 22,673 people in the UK, they first analyzed their data from 2011 to 2013, and then went back to the same people’s data from 2017 to 2019.

The idea that sexual identity is fluid is not new but, up until now, we know relatively little about just how fluid it is in the population and how the fluidity varies across different demographic groups, says Professor Yang Hu.

The study found that 6.6% of participants changed their sexual orientation over a six-year period. It was more common among people aged 16-24 and those over 65. Among homosexuals, 16.1% changed their orientation, while only 3.3% of heterosexuals changed their orientation. Among bisexuals, 56.8% changed, with a larger proportion becoming heterosexual, and among other sexual identities, as many as 85.4% changed their sexual orientation – the vast majority of whom began to identify as heterosexual.

– Our findings show that the sexual minority population is not static, and identities and partnership practices may change over the course of people’s lives, says Hu.

Among those who did not want to disclose their orientation, only 27.1% maintained their secret orientation, while 62.2% transitioned to heterosexuality.

More common among non-European citizens

Non-European ethnic minorities were three times more likely to change their orientation than whites. It was also more common among those with less education, and women were also slightly more likely to change their orientation (6.3%) than men (5.7%).

It is unclear why people’s sexual orientation changes over time, but the research shows that those who either entered or left a same-sex partnership were more likely to change their sexual orientation than those who were not in such a relationship.

Our research establishes the scale and patterns of sexual identity mobility in the U.K. It does not explore the complex reasons for the mobility, but our analysis does show that changes in individuals’ sexual identification are closely associated with changes in their partnership status and partner’s sex, said Hu.

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