The relationship between a sense of belonging to the LGBTIQ + community, internalized heterosexism, and depressive symptoms among bisexual and lesbian women

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Abstract

Depressive symptoms are a significant health concern among sexual minority women, with bisexual women at a higher risk than lesbian women. Internalized heterosexism is a key risk factor for depression among sexual minority women. Sense of belonging to the LGBTIQ + community is protective for lesbian women, but the limited research among bisexual women has shown inconsistent results. The current study investigated whether a sense of belonging to the LGBTIQ + community was directly related to fewer depressive symptoms and indirectly related via lower levels of internalized heterosexism, and whether the indirect effect was similar for bisexual and lesbian women. A sample of 175 self-identified bisexual women and 311 self-identified lesbian women aged 18 to 61 years (M = 31.91, SD = 11.38) completed the Psychological subscale of the Sense of Belonging Instrument, the Internalized Homophobia Scale, and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Bisexual women reported higher levels of depressive symptoms and internalized heterosexism, and lower levels of a sense of belonging to the LGBTIQ + community, than lesbian women. A sense of belonging to the LGBTIQ + community was directly associated with lower depressive symptoms and indirectly related via lower internalized heterosexism. However, sexual orientation moderated the indirect relationship. The indirect effect of a sense of belonging to the LGBTIQ + community on depressive symptoms was significant for lesbian women but not bisexual women. Results imply that increasing a sense of belonging to the LGBTIQ + community may be beneficial for bisexual and lesbian women, but the pathways by which protection is afforded will differ.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Bisexuality
Volume21
Issue number1
Early online date26 Dec 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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