Alcohol use among gender and sexual minorities
Drinkaware commissioned academics at the University of Brighton to undertake a rapid systematic scoping review on alcohol use among gender and sexual minorities.
There are approximately 2.5 million LGBTQ+ people living in the UK. Evidence indicates that alcohol consumption is higher amongst the LGBTQ+ population compared to the general population. However, no comprehensive review exists that consolidates relevant UK evidence. Yet, understanding the evidence on alcohol use and interventions (including what might be missing), is important for policy making, improving research for, and with, LGBT+ people, and for supporting and improving gender and sexual minority inclusive practices.
Drinkaware commissioned a rapid systematic scoping review to provide the best evidence available on the prevalence of harmful drinking in UK LGBT+ populations, international evidence of interventions, as well as protective factors. Specifically, we wanted to explore:
- What is the prevalence (measured between 2010-2021) of hazardous/harmful drinking among LGBT+ people in the UK?
- How does alcohol use change among LGBT+ people in the UK throughout the life course?
- What are the international interventions used between 2000-2021 to address alcohol-related support needs of LGBT+ communities?
What did we find?
- All studies on prevalence demonstrate worse alcohol misuse in sexual minorities compared to heterosexual people. Little information was identified around drinking prevalence in trans and non-binary communities although drinking rates seemed high when compared to average rates of drinking in the UK population. The COVID-19 pandemic may have made the situation worse.
- High alcohol intake can result in a number of physical and mental short- and longer-term problems and there is some evidence that these are more prevalent in LGBT+ people.
- Some mainstream counselling interventions may be effective in reducing harmful alcohol consumption, but very little of this research explores the experiences of trans, non-binary and intersex people.
- LGBT+ people encounter some difficulties with accessing mainstream programmes, such as the AA, and these could be more effectively tailored to address the specific needs of LGBT+ people. The ideal is for all service providers to ensure that alcohol services are LGBT+ inclusive. Where this is not attainable, services with a specific focus on LGBT+ communities are needed.
For more information, you can download the full review or summary report below.
 Estimates derived from sexual orientation (2020) and population estimate statistics, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), as well as Government Equality Office Office estimates on the size of the transgender population in the UK.
In 2020, the UK population (aged 16+) identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) was 3.1%—an estimated 1.7 million people according to ONS population statistics. An additional 0.7% selected ‘Other’ sexual orientation, whereby the respondent did not consider themselves to fit into the heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian categories. Including both, approximately 2 million people identify as either LGB or ‘other’.
There is currently no robust measure of the size of the trans population in the UK. The Government Equalities Office estimates the trans population in the UK as between 0.35% and 1% based on prevalence estimates in studies from other countries (although this does not include non-binary people). This equates to between 200,000 and 500,000 people. Taking the latter estimate, there are approximately 2.5 million LGBTQ+ people in the UK.
Office for National Statistics. (2022, May 25). Sexual Orientation.
Office for National Statistics. (2021, June 25). Estimates of the population for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Government Equalities Office (2018, July). Reform of the Gender Recognition Act, Government Consultation, Annex E.
Last Reviewed: 16th September 2022
Next Review due: 16th September 2023