Bisexuals resorting to binge-drinking - study

By Vaughan Elder

The study said more attention needed to be paid to reducing social stigma towards young people attracted to more than one gender. Photo / Thinkstock
The study said more attention needed to be paid to reducing social stigma towards young people attracted to more than one gender. Photo / Thinkstock

Many young bisexuals resort to binge drinking due to feeling stigmatised and socially excluded, a University of Otago study has found.

The study's lead author from the university's Department of Public Health in Wellington, Frank Pega said binge drinking rates were higher among young people who were attracted to more than one gender than other sexual minorities and heterosexual young people.

The study was based on interviews with 32 participants aged 18 to 25 in 11 focus groups conducted in Dunedin, Auckland and Wellington.

One of the significant factors identified in the study was the "wide-ranging social exclusion experienced by these young people, from not only heterosexual, but also lesbian and gay communities," Mr Pega said.

"Most study participants reported that they commonly experienced biphobia and discrimination, and some had been verbally harassed and physically abused for their sexual attraction.

For many, these experiences resulted in a sense of being stigmatised, which caused daily stress and anxiety.

"While many participants were very resilient and responded positively, some participants binge drank to manage this stress."

The study contained important lessons which could inform national guidelines for alcohol addiction prevention and treatment in sexual minorities, he said.

It said more attention needed to be paid to reducing social stigma towards young people attracted to more than one gender.

This included increasing opportunities for bisexuals to meet and organise in groups, running "broad anti-stigma" campaigns and passing social policies that ensured equal rights for sexual minorities

"One example is the marriage equality legislation, currently before parliament," he said.

Otago University Students' Association queer support co-ordinator Neill Ballantyne agreed young bisexuals often felt more isolated than other sexual minorities.

"Often young people who are attracted to more than one gender can find themselves living in a space between two worlds," he said.

However, in his experience he had not found that young bisexuals were any more likely to face issues with binge drinking than those in the lesbian and gay communities.

"I believe that excessive alcohol consumption is a much larger issue for our whole society to grapple with and I think it can sometimes do more harm than good to identify specific demographics which are seen as drinking more," he said.

- Otago Daily Times

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