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Being Bisexual Is Not Just about Sex

bisexuality and health

Being bisexual is a topic few people talk about, and it also is one that raises questions in several areas. One of those areas is health concerns, as researchers have found that bisexuality is not just about sex.

Being bisexual has health challenges

Actress Evan Rachel Wood recently revealed her bisexuality and stated that it has “become more socially acceptable.” Whether you agree with that statement or not, what is not acceptable about bisexuality are some of the health problems that have been found among this population.

First of all, bisexuals are individuals who establish emotional, romantic and/or sexually intimate relationships with people of their same gender and with those of the opposite gender. A 2011 report from the Williams Institute stated that 1.8 percent of adults in the United States identify themselves as bisexual.

A new report in the Journal of Homosexuality notes that bisexuality is often perceived as the “noise in the data” when it comes to health-related studies of sexual behaviors beyond heterosexual orientation. According to the authors, there is “noise” because the lifestyle does not fit into “monosexual notions of sexual orientation.”

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has named some of the most important health issues for people within the bisexual community. These health problems may or may not be relevant for any one individual who is bisexual.

Breast cancer. Bisexual women have higher rates of breast cancer than do other women, and they also are less likely to undergo a mammogram or pap test. In addition, bisexual women report developing other types of cancer at a higher rate than other women.

Substance abuse. Bisexual women have higher rates of drug use than heterosexual women, and they also report higher rates of alcohol use and problems with alcohol than heterosexual and lesbian women. Among bisexual men, the research is less certain as it shows bisexual men having both no greater use of alcohol and somewhat higher rates of alcohol abuse.

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Sexual health. Among bisexual men who have sex with men, there is an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, HIV, and hepatitis A and B. Bisexual women are more likely to combine substance use and sexual activity when compared with heterosexual women and lesbians.

Smoking: Bisexual women smoke at higher rates than do their heterosexual peers, but at the same rates as lesbians. Smoking habits among bisexual men are unclear, with one study indicating gay men smoke more than do bisexual or heterosexual men.

Heart health. Although research is limited, it appears that bisexual women have higher rates of heart disease than heterosexual women, but a lower rate than among lesbians. The risk of heart problems among bisexual men does not seem to differ when compared with men of other sexual orientations.

Mental health. Both bisexual men and women report greater degrees of anxiety and depression when compared with heterosexuals. These mental health issues may be more serious for individuals who have no family and/or social support system or for those who have remained in the closet.

Another concern is suicide. Both bisexual women and men report higher rates of suicide thoughts and attempts than heterosexuals. In some studies, these suicidal tendencies are even greater than among gay men and lesbians.

A number of serious physical and mental health issues have been identified among the bisexual community. Thus being bisexual is not just a matter of sex: it’s also a matter of health and well-being.

Bostwick W, Hequembourg AL. Minding the noise: conducting health research among bisexual populations and beyond. Journal of Homosexuality 2013 Apr; 60(4): 655-61
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Williams Institute

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