Methods: We completed a scoping review to assemble the available, peer-reviewed literature on MH women. Using Covidence software, we conducted a comprehensive search of Web of Science, PubMed, and Psych Info. Our inclusion criteria were that the studies must comprise a sample of MH women. We extracted and synthesized study findings on health outcomes among this population. From the initial pool of 272 studies, 44 met inclusion criteria and were retained for review.
Results: Across studies, five health foci emerged: sexual/reproductive health, sexual victimization, substance use, mental health, and diet (including nutrition and body image). Nearly half of the included articles looked at MH women’s sexual/reproductive health and sexual victimization. Overall, MH women’s health profiles were more similar to sexual minority women than exclusively heterosexual women. MH women reported higher rates of sexual victimization and substance use than their exclusively heterosexual counterparts and, often, these rates were also higher than those reported for other sexual minority women. MH women were also more likely than exclusively heterosexual women to report having a sexually transmitted infection and an earlier age of sexual intercourse. The few studies on mental health and diet suggested that MH women also have lower health outcomes for these domains.
Conclusions and Implications: This study demonstrates that MH women have health profiles that are distinct from their exclusively heterosexual counterparts. It is imperative for researchers to include them in their studies and continue to understand how and why this is a distinguishable group. We also need to expand our understanding of MH women from a theoretical perspective, as minority stress theory seemingly fails to fully explain their experiences. Overall, social work research and practice would benefit from a more nuanced understanding of the experiences of sexual minority women, with particular attention to how intersections of identity, behavior, and attraction yield distinct health profiles among this heterogeneous population.