Lesbian and Bisexual Women More Likely to Die Earlier Than Straight Women

“It kills to be discriminated against,” says the author of a new study that looked at more than 30 years of data

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of women holding hands


Stock image of women holding hands

Lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to die earlier than straight women — in some cases up to 37% earlier.

The bleak statistics come from a deep dive into women’s medical records dating as far back as 1989, part of the Nurses Health Study II, which looks into chronic illnesses in women and examines the risk factors.

“Participants identifying as lesbian or bisexual had markedly earlier mortality during the study period compared with heterosexual women,” said the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association

Specifically, lesbian women died 20% sooner, and bisexual women died 37% sooner, than their straight counterparts.

“One of the advantages of this study is that we were able to separate out bisexual and lesbian participants, because we had enough people and we followed them for long enough that we can actually look at those risks separately, which no other U.S. study has been able to do,” the study's lead author, Sarah McKetta, told NBC News.

“We’ve known for a really long time that there are systemic and highly reproducible health disparities for LGB people, particularly LGB women, across many outcomes,” McKetta told the outlet.

“We’ve seen disparities in tobacco use and alcohol use, in mental health, in chronic disease. Basically, pretty much any outcome that we’ve looked at across multiple surveys, we see that lesbian, gay and bisexual women are at higher risk.”

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of woman at doctor's office


Stock image of woman at doctor's office

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And as McKetta shared, discrimination is a factor — from systemic blocks to healthcare down to discriminatory practices from single providers.

“We also know it’s due to levels of discrimination, ranging from structural to individual,” she told NBC News.

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The reason bisexual women have a higher risk of earlier death, she shared, is “they have these dual pressures given their identity, and they experience discrimination from both inside and outside of queer communities.”

According to one report in the National Library of Medicine, "Bisexual women report elevated alcohol and drug use compared to other sexual minority women."

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And another study said, "bisexual women are at higher risk than heterosexual and lesbian women for mental health problems, such as depression, and these disparities relate to the unique stressors that bisexual women experience."

“One of the things that I was worried about with this study is that the takeaway would be that it kills to be gay,” she said. “It doesn’t kill to be gay. It kills to be discriminated against. And that’s the lived experience of lesbian and gay women and bisexual women who are just trying to walk through the world.”

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