Exploring Young Bi+ Women's Intersecting Mental Health and Sexual and Reproductive Health Experiences in Context: A Multi-Analytic Method Qualitative Study

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Young bi+ women report worse mental health and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) outcomes compared to gay, lesbian, and straight young adults. They experience intersecting threats to their health and well-being due to their sexuality, gender, and stage of development. There is a lack of research on bi+ women’s unique mental health and SRH experiences, and often bi+ women are overlooked due to bi-erasure and biphobia. Regressive policies related to LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, including increased restrictions to reproductive healthcare after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning abortion protections, further threaten bisexual women’s health. This dissertation used a multi-analytic method qualitative approach to explore the intersecting mental health and SRH experiences of young bisexual women in the current socio-political context. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted over Zoom with 16 young bi+ women from across the U.S. A narrative inquiry approach was used to explore young bi+ women’s mental health experiences and coping strategies. In addition, thematic analysis was used to investigate how young bi+ women describe their mental health as intersecting with their SRH in the current socio-political context. The study yielded rich and nuanced information about challenges these young bi+ women experienced throughout their lives that affected their mental health and SRH. Experiencing trauma had far-reaching negative effects on their mental health. Participants discussed the challenges of forming their identity within the social context, particularly as bi+ women in a society that often invalidates bisexual identities and subjugates women. They also discussed the joys along with difficulties of navigating young adulthood. They further described coping with challenges in a variety of adaptive (e.g., therapy, exercise) and maladaptive (e.g., substance use, self-injury) ways. They discussed relying on social support such as partners, friends, family, therapists, and teachers. Participants desired more support with sexuality-related issues, particularly in early adolescence. These bi+ women described their mental health and SRH as intertwined and discussed how bodily autonomy and agency were essential to their well-being. The socio-political context, including social norms, rhetoric, and federal- and state-level policies, influenced participants’ well-being. The current study shows that young bi+ women face unique threats to their mental health and SRH. Practice implications include improving access to affordable and LGBTQ+-affirming healthcare and developing interventions attuned to the needs of young bi+ women. Policies are needed that uphold the choice and agency of young women in their reproductive health decision-making. Future research should continue to explore the needs and experiences of young bi+ women concerning their mental health and SRH including demographic differences along with potential mechanisms resulting in poorer health.