16 Feb 2012

Bisexuals endure worst mental health problems and suffer from equality gap, report finds

A new report looking at bisexual inclusion and equality issues has found that of all the larger sexual identity groups, bisexual people have the worst mental health problems including higher rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide. This has been found in the UK and internationally, and is linked to experiences of biphobia and bisexual invisibility.

The report, led by Dr Meg Barker, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at The Open University, found that bisexual people experience biphobia, distinct from homophobia. Attitudes towards bisexual people were found to be more negative than those towards other minority groups, with them often being stereotyped as promiscuous, incapable of monogamy, a threat to relationships and spreaders of disease.

Dr Barker said, “Government policy and equalities agendas generally consider lesbian, gay and bisexual issues together. However bisexual people often face prejudice from within lesbian and gay groups as well as heterosexual communities. They are invisible – not represented in mainstream media, policy, legislation or within lesbian and gay communities. Government and communities need to single out bisexual people as a separate group in order to address this equality gap.”

Although the attitudes and behaviours of others, and exclusionary structures, cause issues for bisexual people, the report found that there are many positive aspects to bisexual peoples’ experiences – the ability to develop identities and relationships without restrictions, linked to a sense of independence, self-awareness and authenticity. Bisexual people also speak of their acceptance and appreciation of others’ differences and feel well-placed to notice and challenge social biases and assumptions beyond sexuality.

Stonewall Policy Officer Alice Ashworth said: ‘We’re delighted to endorse this report, which builds on Stonewall research looking at the distinct experiences of bisexual people. Bi people will be pleased to know that researchers really do understand their needs. Now it’s important for service providers, the media and employers to take those needs seriously – we hope this important work helps them to do that.’

The Bisexuality Report: Bisexual inclusion in LGBT equality and diversity was written by Meg Barker, Christina Richards (Senior Specialist Psychology Associate at the West London Mental Health NHS Trust), Rebecca Jones (Lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at The Open University), Helen Bowes-Catton (PhD student in the Psychology Department at The Open University) and Tracy Plowman (independent scholar) – all of BiUK, with Jen Yockney (of Bi Community News) and Marcus Morgan (of The Bisexual Index).

The full report is available at:

About The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest higher education institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.7 million students and has more than 264,000 current students, including 20,000 overseas, learning in their own time using course materials, online activities and content, web-based forums and tutorials and through tutor groups and residential schools.

The OU has been highly rated for teaching quality, and has been at the top of student satisfaction rankings in the National Student Survey since it was introduced in 2005. 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and three out of four FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.

The OU supports a vibrant research portfolio and in the UK's latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008), the University climbed 23 places to 43rd, securing a place in the UK's top 50 higher education institutions.

Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 20 million visitors, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded over 47 million downloads. The OU has a 40 year partnership with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Frozen Planet, Stargazing Live and Protecting Our Children.


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