Why a bisexual’s health is way worse than yours

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Dealing with our personal baggage on top of societal pressures is hard enough for any L, G, B or T, and it’s proven to affect our health. Now a study says that the problem is more exacerbated for bisexuals than straight or even gay people.

Rice University researchers in Houston studied gay, lesbian, straight and bisexual men and women in the U.S. over a five-year period. With federal financial support, sociologists used data from annual Center for Disease Control & Prevention behavioral risk surveys from 2005 to 2010. They found bisexuals are at far greater risk for poor health outcomes across the spectrum of well-being than all other sexual orientations.

Some 20 percent of bisexual men and 19 percent of bisexual women rated their health as “poor or fair.” Only 12 percent of gay men and 11 percent of lesbians rated their health as “poor or fair.” Health was rated poor by 14.5 percent of heterosexual men and 15.6 percent of heterosexual women.

But why?

Like the preponderance of lesbian and bisexual female alcoholics in another recent study, Rice’s results show that “minority groups within minority groups” turn more often to dysfunctional coping strategies that drive down health outcomes, lead researcher Bridget Gorman tells Rice University News & Media. Drinking, smoking, self-medicating with prescription drugs, and other lifestyle choices are among the dangers, Gorman explains to the Advocate.

“As a group, bisexual men and women have higher rates of a variety of factors that can lead to poor health — things like poverty or involvement with lifestyle activities that can lead to poor health, ” Gorman tells The Advocate. “A big thing was emotional support. When you compare relative to other groups, bisexuals reported lower rates of getting the emotional support that they felt they needed.”

Last month, one LGBT health advocate told Project Q that internal stressers can come from a widely held societal belief that sexual orientation comes in a binary. It doesn’t, says Linda Ellis of the Health Initiative in Atlanta.

“Even as we see more acceptance of lesbian and gay individuals, there's still an expectation that it's either/or: You get one box to check,” Ellis said in June. “In reality, that one box, whether it's questions of sexual orientation or gender identity, doesn't fit the experience of all, and that causes distress.

“You can get away with some ‘confusion’ when you're younger, but at some point, the world expects you to pick a lane,” she added.

Rice sociologist Justin Denney says that discrimination – which can even include greater incidences of violence – against bisexuals from both the gay and straight sides of life might be a contributing factor.

“If bisexuals are minorities within the minority and experience unique and more extreme forms of discrimination, this might contribute to disparities in things like earnings, educational attainment, the propensity to smoke cigarettes and other factors that affect well-being,” he told Rice News.

One upshot to the results may be scientists recognizing the need to study and recommend solutions for bisexuals separately and especially, Gorman adds.

“Our study illustrates the importance of examining health status among specific sexual minority groups, and not among ‘sexual minorities’ in the aggregate, since the health profile of bisexual adults differs substantially from that of gay and lesbian adults,” Gorman said.

[Rice News & Media | Advocate]


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