Post submitted by Beth Sherouse, former ACLS Public Fellow, HRC Senior Content Manager
A new study of youth published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that bisexual female youth were more likely to suffer from depression and suicidality than young women who identified as straight or lesbian. The study reinforces what bisexual advocates know to be true, that our community faces dramatic health disparities throughout our lives––including mental health disparities––many of which disproportionately affect bisexual women.
According to the study, which surveyed 2500 youth, ages 14-24, “Bisexual and questioning females endorsed significantly higher scores on the depression, anxiety, and traumatic distress subscales than did heterosexual females. Lesbians, bisexual females, and questioning females all exhibited significantly higher lifetime suicide scores than heterosexual females. Interestingly, bisexual females exhibited the highest current suicide scores.”
The HRC Foundation, BiNet USA, the Bisexual Resource Center and the Bisexual Organizing Project released an issue brief last year, on broader health disparities facing the bisexual community. When compared to both non-LGBTQ and lesbians and gay men, bisexuals face disparities including higher risks for heart disease, cancer, mental health issues and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well as lower rates of preventative care and being out to their medical providers.
“I think bisexual persons and, perhaps, questioning individuals as well, experience prejudice and stigma from gay and lesbian communities in addition to heterosexual communities,” said the new study’s lead researcher Annie Shear. “Furthermore, some people still refuse to acknowledge bisexual and other non-binary identities as legitimate, which I think can be very harmful to those who can’t — and shouldn’t have to — identify as exclusively heterosexual or homosexual.”
It is also worth noting that while these disparities and the biphobia that reinforce them are prevalent for bisexual adults, this study is one of only a few that focus on bisexual youth. HRC’s 2014 report, Supporting and Caring for Our Bisexual Youth found that bisexual youth experienced higher rates of bullying and harassment, and were less likely to have a supportive adult to turn to when compared to their gay and lesbian peers. Numerous bisexual youth in the survey also reported experiences of biphobia from within and outside of the LGBTQ community, including skepticism about the legitimacy of bisexual identity and a lack of bi-inclusive LGBTQ spaces.
For more information about the bisexual community, visit hrc.org/bisexual.