Sexual orientation and health

What we do


This investigation is being launched September 2018. The project is financed by Directorate for Children, Youth, and Family Affairs (Bufdir). Part 1 of the project is an interview study which is planned for 2018-2019. Part 2 will take place during 2019-2020 and is dependent on funding to Bufidr. Project leader is Norman Anderssen (at Department of Psychosocial Science, University of Bergen), who also is Researcher 1 at AFE. The project is a cooperation with Nordlandsforskning (with Senior Researcher Helga Eggebø). The study is a follow-up of the AFE project “Sexual orientation and living condition”, see Anderssen and Malterud: Seksuell orientering og levekår. Uni Helse 2013. (ISBN 978-82-92970-65-2) 185 sider . The project group consists of Norman Anderssen (leader), Helga Eggebø (Nordlandsforskning), and Elisabeth Stubberud (KUN).

Project period: 01.09.2018 – 31.12.2020.


Lesbian and bisexual women have increased risk of mental health problems and reduced quality of life compared to heterosexual women. The risk of suicidal attempts among these groups are substantially increased, in spite of legal recognition and more positive attitudes in the population the last decades, Exploration of factors associated with mental health in these groups, aiming for identification of conditions that can be influenced, is urgently needed.

A minority stress perspective constitutes the point of departure of this project, in search of knowledge useful for the municipal health care system to reduce social inequalities in health associated with sexual orientation. Results from new analyses of existing empirical data from previous studies of living conditions offer potential for development of local and national interventions to improve mental health within these population groups.

The project group consists of Norman Anderssen (project leader), Kirsti Malterud, Liliana Buer, Katrina Roen (UiO) samt Peter Hegarty (University of Surrey) and David Frost (University College London).

One article has been published (2017).

We are working on funding this study.

Project period: 01.06.2015 -


This project was conducted as an assignment and with funding from from the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth, and Family Affairs (Bufdir), the governmental office for the welfare and protection of children and families. The aims were these:

  • Develop indicators for living conditions associated with discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity/gender expression
  • Elaborate a concrete and feasible plan for maintenance and further improvement of indicators for living conditions among LGBT persons during a period of ten years

For this purpose, living conditions are defined as relatively stable economic, social, relational and personal conditions constituting preconditions for and expressions of how individuals live their lives, including issues such as life satisfaction, health and harassment, including attitudes among the population towards LGBT persons

The report presents the following recommendations for an indicator set for ten years follow-up:

  • The results should be generalizable and comparable over time
  • The study design should be based on representative sample, with each of the LGBT, hetero- and cis-groups including at least 260 individuals
  • The study design should be multimethod, including studies of
    • Personal living conditions – surveys every fifth year
    • Attitudes in the population – surveys every third year
    • Efforts from the municipalities
  • Representative samples of vulnerable LGBT subgroups, including elderly, disabled and immigrants, are difficult to establish. An alternative is to use aggregated data from questions in large living condition surveysDette prosjektet, som var et samarbeid mellom Institutt for samfunnspsykologi/UiB og AFE, ble utarbeidet etter oppdrag og med finansiering fra Bufdir.

A report has been published (2016).

The project group consisted of Norman Anderssen (project leader), Liliana Buer, Oyeniyi Samuel Olaniyan and Kirsti Malterud.

Project period: 12.10.2015-20.06.2016


About the project

Attending to the action plan “Better quality of life for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transpersons” from the Norwegian governement, the Directorate for Children, Youth, and Family Affairs (Bufdir) initiated a project to strengthen the knowledge base about health among lesbian and bisexual women (LB women). In this project, we have elaborated data from the main project “Sexual orientation and living conditions”.

These were the main project aims:

  • What is the message from existing evidence about health among LB women?
  • Are there differences between L and B women compared to heterosexual women regarding openness and their feelings toward own sexual orientation, self-assessed health and function, mental health (including suicidal behavior), sexually transmitted infections, attendance to preventive cancer screening programs, health care usage and health habits?

Project results

All over, health status among heterosexual, lesbian and bisexual women is comparable, although there are certain differences.

  • Mental health problems are more frequent among LB women than among heterosexual women
  • Bisexual women have heavier burden of mental health symptoms, lower self-assessed health, use more tobacco and alcohol and are less satisifed with health care services than lesbian women
  • Lesbian women are more open about their sexual orientation, have less sexual transmitted infections, use more snuff and attend more seldom cervical cancer screening than bisexual women

    Possible explanations:

  • Minoritety stress may develop for LB women when they are not sure whether their sexual orientation is accepted by others
  • Minority stress may develop for bisexual women when bisexuality is almost invisible
  • Minority stress may present and act in different ways for lesbian versus bisexual women

    The report «Helse blant lesbiske og homofile kvinner i Norge» [Health among lesbian and bisexual women in Norway] (in Norwegian, English summary) can be downloaded in fulltext from BORA.

    The project grou included Kirsti Malterud (project leader) and Norman Anderssen

    Project period: 01.01.-31.12.2014


About the project

  • This project was initiated and funded by the Directorate for Children, Youth, and Family Affairs (Bufdir). The project included a broad, national exploration of living conditions among lesbian, gay and bisexual persons in Norway in 2013, including economic, social, interpersonal and personal issues, and also the attitudes among the Norwegian population. Data were collected for four independent subprojects:
  • National, internet-based survey about personal living conditions among heterosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual persons
  • National internet-based survey about attitudes in the population towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transpersons (similar study conducted in 2008)
  • Internet-based study about concealment of sexual orientation
  • "Queer stories": An open invitation to present queer lives anonymously in an open internet portal

Project results

Personal living conditions

Similarities are more prominent than differences regarding personal living conditions and health among lesbian, gay and bisexual persons (LGB-persons) in Norway compare to heterosexual women and men.

  • Nevertheless, the proportion of individuals with mental health problems is higher among LGB-persons than among heterosexual men and women
  • Bisexual women report more problems related to self-assessed health, chronic disease, mental health, suicidal attempts, harmful alcohol consumption and loneliness
  • A high proportion of bisexual men and women conceal their sexual orientation at work, while a majority of lesbian women and gay men are open at work
  • A large majority (over 90 %) of LGB-persons never experienced discrimination at work due to their sexual orientation

Attitudes in the population

In Norway, very few men and women report a negative attitude towards LGBT-persons in general.

  • Nevertheless, several confirm specific negative attitudes
  • A minority of the men and well over half the women agreed that lesbian couples should have same rights to assisted insemination as heterosexual couples have, according to contemporary Norwegian law

Concealment of sexual orientation

  • Disclosure of sexual orientation is not an issue of yes or not – it is a very contextually specific issue
  • Even in Norway in 2013, a competence of moving in an out of the closet when needed is present among LGB-persons due to persisting homonegativity in the Norwegian society
  • This situation indicates problematic cultural matters and signifies living conditions that can create minority stress and represent strain among LGB-persons

«Queer stories»

  • This subproject demonstrates examples of how queer persons describe their lives.

The report «Seksuell orientering og levekår» [Sexual orientation and living conditions] (2013) (in Norwegian, English summary) can be downloaded in fulltext from BORA

The project group included Norman Anderssen (project leader), Kirsti Malterud, Tone Hellesund, Mari Bjørkman and Hilde Slåtten.

Project period 01.12.2011-31.12.2013