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‘Sobering’: New data highlights experiences and issues faced by rainbow community

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The findings are based on questions included in the Household Economic survey for the year ended June 2021. Photo / 123rf

New data shows members of the rainbow community are more than two times more likely to experience daily feelings of anxiety and depression than people not in the LGBT+ population.

The Stats NZ findings also showed transgender and non-binary populations had lower incomes than the cisgender population.

An academic and a rainbow-specialist mental health organisation both said although the findings were not surprising, it was important to have data to back up the types of issues these communities were facing.

The findings were based on questions around sexual identity and gender in the Household Economic Survey for the year ended June 2021, which included about 16,000 households.

It showed 4.4 per cent (169,500 people) of the adult population, aged 18 and older, identify as LGBT+.

However, Stats NZ acknowledged that the gender and sexual terms used in the survey may not have resonated with everyone and therefore, the data may not have captured all of those who are part of the LGBT+ community.

The University of Otago public health department’s Dr Brodie Fraser, whose PhD research explored the intersection of takatāpui/LGBTIQ+ identities and experiences of homelessness in Aotearoa, said the statistics were “sobering” yet not surprising.

“I think it’s really useful we have statistics like this coming out. It’s a really powerful way for us to advocate for our needs.

“A lot of the time, when activists try to bring out the issues that our communities are facing, we get kind of brushed aside sometimes because there is no data to prove it.”

Dr Brodie Fraser of the University of Otago's public health department. Photo / Tim Onnes
Dr Brodie Fraser of the University of Otago’s public health department. Photo / Tim Onnes

Fraser said what stood out was the disability statistics – which showed even after adjusting for age, the LGBT+ population had a higher proportion of disabled people (15.9 per cent) than the non-LGBT+ population (11.7 per cent).

“I think a lot of us in the community and particularly, researchers within the community, have been trying to raise that for a while; that we’re over-represented in those stats as well.”

The data showed people who had identified as LGBT+ were more likely to hold a postgraduate qualification. At postgraduate level, 19.3 per cent of the LGBT+ population held a postgraduate qualification compared with 12.2 per cent of the non-LGBT+ population.

According to Stats NZ, 19.3 per cent of the non-LGBT+ population had no formal education qualification compared with 14.4 per cent of those who identified as LGBT+.

The age-adjusted findings also showed incomes were lower among people who were transgender and non-binary – with these populations earning an average disposable income of $32,172 per year, which was $10,439 less per year than the average personal disposable income for the cisgender population.

Meanwhile, people identifying as LGBT+ were over two times more likely to experience daily feelings of anxiety and 2.9 times more likely to experience feelings of depression daily compared with the non-LGBT+ population.

Claire Black, chief executive of rainbow mental health organisation OutLine, said it was important to remember that the discrimination and stigma rainbow people faced across many sectors of their lives contributed to the higher instances of anxiety, depression and mental health distress.

“None of [the findings are] particularly surprising to those of us working in this space. It’s all stuff we’re familiar with in anecdotal ways and also drawing from other research that has been [done], but it does help reinforce those things that we already know.

Chief executive of OutLine Aotearoa, Claire Black. Photo / Supplied
Chief executive of OutLine Aotearoa, Claire Black. Photo / Supplied

“Something that has been missing in the past has been … population-level research that asks about that experience as they relate to gender and sexuality.”

Andrew Neal, Stats NZ senior manager, social populations and insights, said the hope with the survey was to provide a clear picture for minority groups.

“We know different groups can have different outcomes or challenges in life than other groups so it’s important to make this visible so we can accurately represent that and talk about it and others can talk about and can make changes and make decisions that make the world broadly more inclusive and thriving.”

Neal said the survey was conducted via a self-reporting model which meant respondents answered questions on a screen rather than “being asked and [their answers being] put through someone else words or … having to put it out loud for anyone”.

“The intention being that would create hopefully a more comfortable way for people to be able to express who they really are.”

According to the survey, the transgender and non-binary population was made up of:
• 28.5 per cent transgender men
• 28 per cent transgender women
• 43.5 per cent non-binary people (people who do not identify exclusively as a man or woman, which was reported as ‘another gender’ in the Household Economic Survey).

Of those who identified being a part of the sexual minorities’ population, 34.9 per cent were gay or lesbian, 50.6 per cent were bisexual and 14.5 per cent reported another sexual identity. Five per cent of the Māori adult population identified as being part of the LGBT+ population.

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