A new study found that bisexual women are more likely than bisexual men to suffer from depression and stress, and abuse alcohol. Researchers don't really know why bisexual women tend to fare worse than men, but they suspect feeling excluded from two communities may have something to do with it.
Researchers at George Mason University and the University of South Carolina surveyed 14,412 people in 1994 when they were in grades 7 to 12, and again in 2007-2008 when they were 24 to 32, according to EurekAlert. They found that when bisexuals of either gender are young, they're more likely to be high-risk for depression, stress, and alcoholism. While the risk dropped off for male bisexuals as they got older, the women continued to suffer from these problems at a higher rate, and are also more likly to be be victimized or smoke.
Lead researcher Lisa Lindley admits that they aren't quite sure what the data means. Since women are more likely than men to have "sexual identities that flutuate over time," the women may be troubled because the way they've identified one way, but behave and feel attraction in a different way. Another theory is that bisexual women are clear on who they're attracted to, but people around them don't accept that they're interested in both men and women. Lindley says:
"There's a lot of prejudice against them. They're told 'You're confused — pick one.' There tends to be this expectation or standard that a person picks one sexual identity and sticks with it. I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about bisexuals. I think their risk has a lot more to do with stigma."
It's unclear why bisexual men are less at-risk than bisexual women, but Lindley believes it may have something to do with men feeling more connected to their community, while bisexual women just feel that they're alone.
Getting to the bottom of the issue may have consequence for how the entire LGBT community is viewed. Bisexuals may be so much more at risk that they're increasing reported rates of depression, stress, and alcohol abuse for the entire community. Lindley says researchers need to start looking at the groups individually because, "They're not all high risk."
While the study's lack of answers is frustrating, the underlying theme makes sense. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities all have different characteristics, and researchers lumping different groups together because they're all non-straight doesn't tell us much about their experience. Similarly, for bisexuals, a lack of understanding and acceptance from these communities only makes their situation worse.
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