Do Americans Struggle to Accept Bisexuality?

Photo: Pixabay/Public Domain
Photo: Pixabay/Public Domain
Bisexual people are at higher risk for mental health issues, according to a new study. And gay, lesbian, trans, and straight people may be to blame.

“Bisexual people face double discrimination in multiple settings—bisexual people are often invisible, rejected, invalidated [and] stigmatized in the heterosexual community as well as the traditional LGBTQ communities,” lead study author Ethan Mereish told NBC News. “Given that isolation and discrimination, bi people might be experiencing increase factors that might make them more lonely or isolated.”

The study, conducted by researchers at American University, surveyed 503 participants who said they were attracted to more than one gender. Responses showed that participants had a hard time gaining a sense of belonging in any community—neither gay nor straight. That lack of acceptance has resulted in increased risk of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts in bisexual people.

Research presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in August found that loneliness may be more deadly than obesity and smoking. People need to feel a sense of belonging, and if bisexual people don’t find their community, the consequences could be deadly.

“Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need—crucial to both well-being and survival,” Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, said in a release. “There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators.”

Research on bisexuality isn’t as extensive as one would think. Part of the reason why may have to do with people’s discomfort with the subject. Heterosexuality has been studied extensively, and health risk factors affecting the gay community is also a growing area of study. Mereish and his colleagues say more research needs to be done to address the mental and physiological health needs of bisexual individuals.

“This research highlights the unique stress experiences of bisexual individuals, with implications for addressing bisexual-specific stress in clinical settings as well as designing preventive interventions that increase access to bisexual-specific support and resources,” the study concludes. “Bisexual-specific experiences must be considered independently from the experiences of other sexual minority subgroups to address sexual orientation disparities in mental health.”