Sex Hormone Levels in Lesbian, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Women: Systematic Review and Exploratory Meta-Analysis

Harris, Alexandra and Bewley, Susan and Meads, Catherine (2020) Sex Hormone Levels in Lesbian, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Women: Systematic Review and Exploratory Meta-Analysis. Archives of Sexual Behavior. ISSN 1573-2800

[img] Text
Accepted Version
Available under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (474kB)
Official URL:


Lesbian and bisexual women may have different levels of sex hormones compared to heterosexual women. We systematically reviewed comparative studies measuring any sex hormones. A protocol was prospectively registered (PROSPERO—CRD42017072436) and searches conducted in six databases. Any relevant empirical studies published within the last 50 years reporting any circulating sex hormones in sexual minority women compared to heterosexual women were included, with no language or setting restrictions. Inclusions, data extraction, and quality assessment were conducted in duplicate. Random-effects meta-analyses of hormone levels, using standardized-mean-differences (SMD) were conducted where five or more studies reported results. From 1236 citations, 24 full papers were examined and 14 studies of mixed designs included, 12 in women without known ovarian problems. Hormones were measured in plasma (n = 9), saliva (n = 4), and urine (n = 2) and included androstenedione, luteinizing hormone, estradiol, pregnanediol, progesterone, testosterone, and several other hormones. Most studies were small, biased, and had considerable heterogeneity. Few found statistically significant differences between groups. All-sample meta-analysis showed increased testosterone in sexual minority women compared to heterosexual women (n = 9; SMD = 0.90; 95% Confidence interval (CI) 0.22, 1.57, I2 = 84%). This was the only difference found. We conclude that the small amount of heterogeneous research, from 50 years to date, suggests little discernable difference in sex hormone levels between lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women excepting possibly higher testosterone. A large-scale primary study would be required before placing any certainty in the findings or their implications.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Lesbian, Bisexual women, Sex hormones, Meta-analysis, Sexual orientation, Polycystic ovary syndrome, Role identification, Orientation, Testosterone, Homosexuality, Endocrine, Stress, Health, Men
Faculty: Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine & Social Care
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic User
Depositing User: Symplectic User
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2020 10:31
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 18:53

Actions (login required)

Edit Item Edit Item