Professors of Sociology at Rice University have found that bisexual Americans face higher health disparities than their gay, lesbian, and straight counterparts. A variety of these health issues stem from systemic socioeconomic vulnerability in the bisexual community, according to the new study.
"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, " lead author Bridget 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."
Bisexual respondents also reported a higher propensity for smoking and using alcohol than straight or gay counterparts -- health risks that can be amplified by the higher rates of poverty among the bisexual community compared with other peers. Among gay, lesbian, and straight counterparts, researchers found members of the bisexual community were the least likely to be educated at a university level.
Gorman and her team spent years aggregating data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a health-related phone survey conducted annually across the U.S. Comprised of co-authors Justin T. Denney, Hilary Dowdy, and Rose Anne Medeiros, Gorman's team reviewed data collected in seven states between 2005 and 2010 to suss out the health disparities among bisexual Americans. All told, the study aggregates results from "10,128 sexual minority (gay, lesbian, and bisexual) and 405,145 heterosexual adults," according to its abstract. This first set of findings were published in the July issue of the Journal of Demography, under the title "A New Piece of the Puzzle: Sexual Orientation, Gender, and Physical Health Status."
The CDC's standard reporting system generally does not distinguish between gay or lesbian and bisexual respondents, but the Rice researchers want to see more states become more proactive in asking residents how they identify. Gorman says it's important to count bisexuals separately than gays and lesbians, as "recent studies have found worse self-reported health for bisexuals compared with gay/lesbian and heterosexual adults."
"Some research has suggested that bisexuals may be 'minorities within the minority' because they experience even greater levels of prejudice and discrimination than gays or lesbians," the study reports. "The resulting stressors and stigma experienced by bisexuals may contribute to greater health problems."