Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 131–141 | Cite as

Depression and Victimization in a Community Sample of Bisexual and Lesbian Women: An Intersectional Approach

  • Wendy B. BostwickEmail author
  • Tonda L. Hughes
  • Alana Steffen
  • Cindy B. Veldhuis
  • Sharon C. Wilsnack
Special Section: Bisexual Health


Mental health inequities among bisexual and lesbian women are well-documented. Compared to heterosexual women, both bisexual and lesbian women are more likely to report lifetime depressive disorders, with bisexual women often faring the worst on mental health outcomes. Risk factors for depression, such as victimization in childhood and adulthood, are also more prevalent among bisexual women. Less is known about the intersection of racial/ethnic and sexual minority identities, and how depression and victimization may differ across these multiple, co-occurring identities. Data were from Wave 3 of the Chicago Health and Life Experiences of Women study, an 18-year, community-based longitudinal study of sexual minority women’s health. We constructed a six-category “intersection” variable based on sexual identity and race/ethnicity to examine group differences in lifetime depression and victimization. We tested childhood and adult victimization as moderators of lifetime depression (n = 600). A majority (58.2%) of the total sample met criteria for lifetime depression. When considering the intersection of race/ethnicity and sexual identity, Black bisexual and Black lesbian women had significantly lower odds of depression than White lesbian women, despite their higher reports of victimization. Latina bisexual and lesbian women did not differ from White lesbians on depression. Victimization did not moderate the association between the intersection variable and depression. More research is needed to better understand risk and protective factors for depression among racially/ethnically diverse sexual minority women (SWM). We highlight the need to deliberately oversample SWM of color to accomplish this goal.


Bisexual women Lesbian Sexual orientation Depression Mental health Victimization 



Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01AA013328 (Bostwick, Hughes, Wilsnack). Dr. Veldhuis’ participation in this research was made possible through an NIH/NIAAA Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (F32AA025816). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Systems Science, College of NursingUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.School of NursingColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, School of Medicine and Health SciencesUniversity of North DakotaGrand ForksUSA

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