A recent study showed that bisexual individuals or “bi,” who are the largest sexual minority group, were at greater risk for health problems compared to heterosexuals or straight people.
Bisexuality can mean having attractions to or sexual behavior with people of more than one sex or gender.
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If a person experiences any form of attraction beyond heterosexual or lesbian/gay, including pansexual and queer, they fall under the “bi+ umbrella.”
Citing a study published in the journal of International Academy of Sex Research, Sabra Katz-Wise, an assistant professor in adolescent/young adult medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, said certain health problems such as gastrointestinal problems, arthritis, and obesity occur more often among bi+ women and men.
She added that women who are bi+ may have a poor health-related quality of life, while bi+ men may have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.
Katz-Wise, who is also an assistant professor in social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, explained that experts believed that bi+ individuals usually encounter “minority stress” that negatively affects their health.
“Bi+ people experience unique minority stress related to being bisexual, such as negative stereotypes about what it means to be bisexual,” she said.
“Feeling invisible may also create problems. These unique forms of minority stress can be harmful for bi+ people’s health,” she added.
The professor further noted that bi+ individuals who encounter “double discrimination” also lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems.
“Bi+ people experience discrimination from both heterosexual and sexual minority communities, related to repeatedly needing to ‘come out’ as bi+,” she said.
“This double discrimination can lead to isolation and loneliness, which can be harmful to mental health,” she added.
To counter these issues and improve one’s health, Katz-Wise advised bisexuals to connect with people who are supportive of their bisexuality, including persons who are also bi+ and can understand the unique stresses that bi+ people sometimes face.
She said it is also important to be honest with doctors or mental health providers about bisexuality to get the care you need.
“Even if you are not bi+ yourself, you can support bi+ people by examining your biases and assumptions and educating yourself about bi+ people,” Katz-Wise noted.
“You can also support them by educating others about bi+ people to challenge stereotypes and reduce stigma, and to increase acceptance of the bi+ community,” she concluded.