Gilbert Gonzales of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine conducted a review of the National Health Interview Survey from 2013 and 2014 that shows gay men and lesbians are at greater risk for health problems but bisexuals report the worst health. This is one of several studies in the last few years that show bisexuals have poorer health than gay men and lesbians. One example is cited here in Reasons Why it is Important to Note Lesbians and Bisexuals Are Not Always the Same: Bisexuals Have Higher Rates of Eating Disorders. Another example comes from the CDC where their study finds bisexual women suffer higher rates of abuse than straight women or lesbians.
- Over all LGBT people “were more likely to report impaired physical and mental health, heavy alcohol consumption, and heavy cigarette use, potentially due to the stressors that (they) experience as a result of interpersonal and structural discrimination” and “compared to heterosexual women, lesbians were 91 percent more likely to report poor or fair health. Lesbians were 51 percent more likely, and bisexual women were more than twice as likely, to report multiple chronic conditions, compared to straight women.”
- Lesbian identified women were around 1.37% of the females in the survey
- Lesbian’s mental health was more comparable to heterosexual women’s. Asked if they had psychological distress in the last 30 days, 22% of heterosexual women had at least moderate psychological distress, 28% percent of lesbian’s did but about 46% percent of bisexual women did.
- 17% of heterosexual men had at least moderate psychological distress, compared to about 26% of gay men and about 40% of bisexual men.
- Bisexuals had the worst statistics as far as mental and physical health in all measures. “On average, bisexual women were nearly four times as likely to report severe psychological distress, twice as likely to drink heavily, and just over 1.5 times more likely to smoke. The numbers were higher for bisexual men who reported being nearly five times as likely to experience severe psychological distress, three times more heavy drinking, and two times more heavy smoking.”
Reasons Why LGBT People Have Worse Health
I don’t think these results are a surprise. Usually psychologists and sociologist cite minority stress as a cause. Older gay men and lesbians didn’t grow up in an environment that supported their relationships. Less children and settled family structure in general results in higher levels of cigarette smoking and alcohol use. So there are lifestyle choices involved here as well. Hopefully the next generations will have better over all health. I like to write about these issues going on in our community to promote more self awareness in the hopes that we can all take care of ourselves better.
But Why Do Bisexuals Have the Worst Health?
As someone who dated plenty of men when I was very young I have to be honest. I do not understand these statistics because personally I believe living in a same-sex relationship is much more difficult than being in an opposite-sex one (as most bisexuals are) regardless of how those people identify. I am not discounting the difficulties or the discrimination bisexuals face. Not at all. I just don’t see why it would cause more difficulties than being a homosexual. And I am only asking these questions to get to the root of the problem so the problem can be solved. Why would bisexuals be experiencing higher rates of poverty, mental health issues, physical health problems, and abuse? Anti-bisexual sentiment is a reality in the straight and gay community and is often cited as the reason for this. However, bisexuals are a larger group than gay men and lesbians in almost all recent polls. Bisexual women are well represented and are even a majority on websites for women who love women. How is being bisexual more difficult for people than being a sissy gay man or a butch lesbian, not able to pass and not able to be in a socially acceptable heterosexual relationship? Bisexuals state one reason for these issues is their sexuality isn’t taken seriously. But I can say after 25 years in the queer community, lesbian sexuality isn’t taken seriously either. It sometimes isn’t taken seriously by straight men or even other queers that think all women are sexually fluid and open to sex with men. In one poll 15% of people refused to accept bisexuality as a “legitimate sexual orientation.” But this means that 85%, a large majority, actually do accept bisexuality as a valid orientation.
There is one issue that is more prevalent among bisexuals. The closet. In the most recent Pew poll on the LGB community 28% of bisexuals were out compared to 71% of lesbians and 77% of gay men. The closet is a known indicator of poorer mental health for LGBT people. However, a full 53% of bisexuals when asked if their sexual orientation is important to them chose “Not too/Not at all” compared to 25% of gay men and 21% of lesbians. So why would the closet be having such a negative affect when 50% of bisexuals don’t think their bisexuality is even that relevant to their identity. I hope more bisexual websites really delve into why these mental health rates are so bad for bisexuals. Bisexuals need more of a community and to support each other. And anyone treating them badly needs to stop because this is harming people in the real world. It appears that even people who are mostly in heterosexual relationships are experiencing even more problems than those who only have the option of a same-sex one. I don’t understand this but I hope it gets better. These studies are showing a very consistent pattern of bisexuals being worse off than any other group with the acceptation of the trans community. This issue needs attention now. It is also an example of how the LGBT “community” actually consists of groups that have some very different issues going on, a point I harp on often. Shared “queer” spaces are great. But the individual groups need their own support systems as well. Otherwise the goal of properly addressing everyone’s needs gets diluted.