HRC's research brief published today underscores a dangerous but largely hidden crisis--the striking physical, mental and sexual health disparities bisexual people face.
The Health Disparities Among Bisexual People report, based on the most recent and reliable data available on bisexual health and released in partnership with the Bisexual Resource Center, BiNet USA, and the Bisexual Organizing Project, reveals a troubling chasm between the health outcomes of bisexual people and those of the rest of the population - including gay men and lesbians.
"Bisexual people are the largest single group within the LGBT community, but we're not addressing their specific healthcare needs,” said Tari Hanneman, Deputy Director of the Health and Aging Program at the HRC Foundation. “The reality is that bisexual people face discrimination not only outside of our community, but also from within. And that can discourage them from engaging in and benefitting from the work that LGBT advocates are doing to address our mental, physical and sexual health."
Studies show that bisexuals face elevated rates of poor health outcomes ranging from cancer and heart disease, to obesity, sexually-transmitted infections and mental health issues. The report highlights research showing that:
- Bisexual women have higher rates of cancer than the general population of women, higher rates of heart disease and obesity than heterosexual women, and are more likely than all other women to suffer from mental and emotional stress;
- Bisexual adults have double the rate of depression than heterosexual adults, higher rates of binge drinking, and are more likely to engage in self-harming behavior, including attempting suicide;
- Bisexual men are less likely than gay or heterosexual men to get tested for HIV, leading them to be disproportionately affected by the infection; and bisexual people are less likely to be screened for the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can increase the risk of cancer in both men and women.
"Healthcare providers sometimes make assumptions about patients' identities based on their current or recent partners, and bisexual people often face outright discrimination when they come out in healthcare settings,” Hanneman said. “That can lead bisexual people to delay or avoid seeking care, or not disclose their identities to their providers. This can mean that medical professionals are not getting an accurate picture of what that patient's sexual health needs are, or the mental or physical health concerns for which they may face heightened risk."
Recommendations contained in the report, released in advance of Bisexual Awareness Week and the 16th annual Celebrate Bisexuality Day, include calling on healthcare providers to provide inclusive intake forms and paperwork, and to avoid making assumptions about a patient’s gender identity or sexual orientation. The report also urges bisexual people to seek out culturally competent healthcare providers and to be honest about their bisexuality; and asks advocates to raise awareness about health disparities faced by bisexual people, and urge better and more inclusive research about the bisexual community.