Last month, we published our latest Active Lives Adult Survey report that shines a light on physical activity levels in England.
Covering the period from November 2020 to November 2021, the report highlights the continued impact coronavirus (Covid-19) had and how people reacted as restrictions designed to stop the spread of the disease were removed.
We know that that certain groups – women, young people aged 16-34, over 75s, disabled people and people with long-term health conditions, those from Black, Asian and other culturally diverse communities and those living in the most deprived areas – were hardest hit by the pandemic.
But what was the impact on the LGBTQ+ community? This blog explores the data a little further and outlines where work is needed to help this large group of people feel confident to take part in sport in physical activity and enjoy the benefits being active can bring.
Gay men (25%) are less likely to feel they have the opportunity to be active as compared to the average for all men (36%).
Understanding activity levels in the LGBTQ+ community can be difficult as, whilst the Active Lives Survey is representative of the English population, capturing the sexual orientation or trans status of respondents is dependent upon their willingness to report this data.
This, coupled with lower prevalence compared to cisgender (that is, not trans) and/or heterosexual adults, means sample sizes for these groups are lower and as such wider confidence intervals prevail - meaning greater differences are required to be reported within an acceptable margin of error.
For instance, specific reporting on trans/non-binary people’s experiences is not currently viable due to the sample size.
Nevertheless, the data shows the number of cisgender people who describe themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual who are meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of taking part in an average of 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
The report shows that:
- gay men (67%) are more likely to be active than the average for all men (63%), while 59% of bisexual men are reaching this threshold
- both lesbian (69%) and bisexual women (69%) are more likely to be active than the average for all women (60%).
The data also shows that LGBTQ+ participation falls in line with all adults across the different age groups, with activity declining as people get older regardless of their sexual orientation.
Gay men are the least likely to enjoy being active (19%) and are less likely to enjoy being active compared to the number for men as a whole (37%).
Yet, while overall participation levels for this group are good, the report has found some areas that are concerning.
While lesbian (43%) and bisexual women (39%) aged 16-54 are likely to feel they have the same ability to be active as compared to the average for all women (41%), gay (37%) and bisexual men (41%) are less likely to feel they have the ability to be active than the average for all men (50%) in the same age bracket.
Gay men (25%) are less likely to feel they have the opportunity to be active as compared to the average for all men (36%). They are also the least likely to enjoy being active (19%) and are less likely to enjoy being active compared to the number for men as a whole (37%).
Whilst it was not directly explored in Active Lives, existing research suggests that discrimination, often in the form of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia, is a common barrier to participation for LGBTQ+ people across a range of sports and sporting environments.
Active Lives also looks at experiences of loneliness and finds that while just 6% of all adults feel often or always lonely, the figure jumps to 15% amongst gay men and lesbian women and 21% for anyone who identified as bisexual.
However, we know from other studies that positive representation (e.g. seeing LGBTQ+ people succeeding in sport) and feelings of belonging and social connectivity (e.g. partaking in sport or group activities) can be predictors of improved resilience and wellbeing.
These gaps in opportunity, capability and enjoyment matter because:
- when we feel confident in our ability to be active, we are more likely to stay active throughout our lives.
- when we enjoy being active, we have more motivation to take part in sport and physical activity and to stay engaged in those activities.
- when we experience loneliness, we are more vulnerable to a range of physical and mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression and cardiovascular diseases.
- being active is connected to better self-esteem, reduced anxiety and a wide range of physical health benefits.
We believe that everybody, irrespective of gender identity or sexuality should feel welcome and able to be themselves while taking part in sport and physical activity, so that they can experience all the the benefits of being active. Our 10-year strategy, Uniting the Movement, puts tackling those deep-rooted inequalities throughout the sport and physical activity sector at its heart.
Our partners, such as Pride Sports, have some great resources that support sport and physical activity organisations to make their offerings appealing, welcoming and safe places for the LGBTQ+ community.
While there’s also an online resource to help you find your nearest LGBTQ+ (or LGBTQ+ friendly) sports clubs.
And to ensure that our commitment to challenging inequality is inclusive of LGBTQ+ people, we will develop an LGBTQ+ action plan as part of our wider Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy later this year. In order to achieve this, we will:
- Meaningfully engage LGBTQ+ people at every stage of the work, including in leadership roles (‘nothing about us, without us’)
- Consult widely with the communities and LGBTQ+ community organisations
- Bridge the data gap by developing insight that is inclusive of all LGBTQ+ people, including trans/non-binary people
- Apply an intersectional lens to our thinking to better understand people who may experience multiple barriers to participation (e.g. LGBTQ+ disabled people, LGBTQ+ people from culturally diverse communities).
A culturally competent LGBTQ+ action plan will enable us to better understand and better challenge the systemic barriers to participation that the communities face, will support the creation of effective tools for advocacy and allow us to affect positive change through our influence and investments.
We believe that sport and physical activity is for everyone and will strive to foster a sector based on co-production and collaboration, so that all LGBTQ+ people can be active, feel safe, and be their whole selves.