Canada adds to bi health data

In Bi Health Awareness Month a new report finds that Canadians who identify as bisexual report the highest rates of mood and anxiety disorders and heavy drinking compared to any other group.

And as with UK and USA research, when you look at bisexuals separately you find that the “lumpy” data produced when lesbian, gay and bi people are treated as a homogenous group hides the reality of bi experience.

“Often gay, lesbian and bisexual people are grouped together in studies, but we found there are important differences in their reported health,” said Basia Pakula of UBC’s School of Population and Public Health, who led the study. “These findings are extremely useful because this information has not been available for us in Canada until now.”

They are however in line with UK, US and EU research in recent years.

The findings come from more than 222,000 Canadians who participated in the Canadian Community Health Survey between 2007 and 2012. The study found that gay and lesbian Canadians reported about twice the rates of anxiety and mood disorders compared to heterosexual Canadians. For bisexual Canadians, the rates were nearly four times those of heterosexuals and approximately twice the rates of gay or lesbian respondents.

UK Bisexuality Report co-author Jen Yockney commented on the research: “Ten or twenty years ago received wisdom was that bisexuals were ‘half-gay’ and so experienced only a fraction of the challenges that lesbian and gay people did: that so-called ‘heterosexual privilege’ meant we had an easier time and fewer life challenges. The more research separates out bi from gay experience, the more we find that it’s very different in reality.”

The researchers say the study’s findings can be used to plan and allocate resources for health services that better respond to the issues facing these groups.

While this study did not look at the causes of anxiety and mood disorders among gay and bisexual people, an extensive body of research suggests both experience chronic stress related to prejudice and stigma, said Pakula.

“There is growing evidence that being the target of micro-aggressions in the form of daily slurs or prejudiced comments can be psychologically damaging,” she said.

“Bisexual people often face a double stigma from within heterosexual and gay or lesbian communities, and lack needed supports.”

Pakula and her colleagues say people often turn to substances like alcohol to cope with ongoing stress. Any health interventions aimed at helping people deal with stress and anxiety or mood disorders should also address the unique needs of the population, Pakula added.

This study was published yesterday in the American Journal of Public Health.