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Sexual orientation

Codes and Frequencies

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For sample adults ages 18 and older, SEXORIEN reports the person's sexual orientation. Respondents were asked "Which of the following best represents how you think of yourself?" Response options included: "gay" or "lesbian", "straight, that is, not lesbian or gay", "bisexual", "something else", and "I don't know the answer". The wording of the question differed slightly for men and women, with men being asked if they are "gay" or "straight, that is, not gay" and women being asked if they are "lesbian or gay" or "straight, that is, not lesbian or gay". Persons who responded "something else" or "I don't know the answer" were asked follow-up questions about what they meant by "something else" or "don't know," but due to sample size constraints, those responses are not included in the publicly-available data.

SEXORIEN was first introduced in 2013. Users interested in learning more about the cognitive testing involved in developing the NHIS sexual orientation questions can refer to the NHIS question evaluation report.


While the basic meaning of this variable is completely comparable over time, major questionnaire changes introduced in 2019 may affect comparability with earlier years. The NHIS questionnaire was substantially redesigned in 2019 to introduce a different data collection structure and new content. For more information on changes in terminology, universes, and data collection methods beginning in 2019, please see the user note.


  • 2013-2018: Sample adults age 18+.
  • 2019-2020: Sample adults age 18+.


  • 2013-2020