Is being bisexual ruining your life?

OK, I admit it, it’s a provocative headline. But the latest number crunching from the Office for National Statistics says that lesbian, gay and bi people rate their ‘quality of life’ as lower than the population at large do.

They find that “People who identified as bisexual had the biggest well-being gap, reporting significantly higher levels of anxiety than any other group, as well as reporting lower levels of life satisfaction and happiness. Three in 10 (30%) of those who identified as bisexual reported high levels of anxiety, compared to two in 10 (19%) heterosexual or straight people.”

That’s half as anxious again as our straight friends. We’re less satisfied with our lives too; we feel less worthwhile as people and less happy. And we do worse on all four measures than do gay or lesbian people.

What was that they used to say to us about having the “best of both worlds”?

While the ONS number crunching was focusing on life satisfaction, the annual British Social Attitudes survey from NatCen also came out in June and showed a few interesting things even if none of it was specific to bisexuality.

Acceptance of same-sex relationships has been growing slowly since a nadir in 1987 – most likely prompted by fear of HIV. But since the same-sex marriage law in 2013 the rate of increase of acceptance has grown, with people changing their minds at about twice the speed of the previous decade.

Not just that, but acceptance amongst Christians (the only faith with big enough a sample size to give very confident figures) has been rising even faster, narrowing a gap which was at its greatest in 2013 as the anti-same-sex-couple rhetoric from the churches was at its loudest.

Past debate around LGBT issues has sometimes highlighted an age gap: younger people more accepting, older people clinging to how the world used to work. But the rate of change is faster than the rate that the population is ageing: older people are changing their attitudes as well as the demographic creep that we were relying on to bring social attitude change over time.

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Graphic below: ONS statistics on self-assessed quality of life, life satisfaction, happiness, and the perception that things you do in life are worthwhile. Interviewees scored themselves out of 10.
Lighter coloured bars, and heterosexual or straight bars are not statistically significant.
Image: ONS, with thanks.