Research — 18 December 2013

Gay, lesbian and bisexual people’s physical and mental health have improved greatly in the past 10 years, but a new study shows that bisexual women still have a higher risk of mental health and STI issues than other sexual orientations.

Dr Kirsti Malterud, a Norwegian University Health researcher, conducted a report into the health of the gay, lesbian and bisexual community, and said that bisexual women fared worst.

“This group has more mental health problems, poorer self-rated health, more sexually transmitted diseases, experiences loneliness and includes several suicide attempts,” Dr Malterud said.bigstock_Hot_Couple_203338

“This applies to a minority, but it’s serious.”

The survey found 78 percent of bisexual men and 68 percent of bisexual women don’t reveal their sexual orientation at work, compared with 18 percent of gay men and nine percent of lesbians.

Liam Leonard, director of Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria, said a 2012 Australian report showed similar findings.

“We found the general health and physical health of the gay lesbian and bisexual community was very close to the national averages and had shown improvement since 2006,” he said.

“But bisexual women are doing worse than same sex-attracted men and women and bisexual men, on a whole range of indicators, but particularly mental health.”

Leonard said the problem appears to be two-pronged – bisexual people report feeling ostracised from both heterosexual and homosexual communities, and they also feel pressure to conform to gender stereotypes.

“If you are gay or lesbian you can at least find a sense of community within the gay and lesbian community, but bisexuals will say they are still marginalised in that community and also the heterosexual community,” Leonard said.

“For bisexual women, there is also pressure to present themselves in very feminine, traditionally gendered ways and those pressures aren’t the same for bisexual men.”

Leonard said there needs to be more awareness about bisexuality in the broader community, and also a reduction in broader gender expectations.

“Bisexuality is not a case of not being able to choose, it’s another form of sexual expression. We need to pull apart some of those misunderstandings because they are incredibly patronising,” he said.

“Interventions can’t just focus on bisexual women’s sexuality, they also have to focus on broader gender issues that affect women across the board.”

The Norwegian study also found that 16 percent of men said they would move away from a gay man on a bus.

“The 16 percent who would move away is less than before, but still enough to make you unsure of people’s reactions if you come out,” Malterud said.

“But we have to be pleased that there’s progress.”

This article first appeared on ‘ninemsn’ on 13 December 2013.

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