Accelerated action is needed to protect the health and wellbeing of our lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) youth, according to study results just released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Findings from the report, Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12, show that LGB students experience physical and sexual violence and bullying at much higher levels than their straight peers.
The CDC discovered that LGB youth are significantly more likely to report:
- Being forced to have sex (18% LGB vs. 5% straight)
- Sexual dating violence (23% LGB vs. 9% straight)
- Physical dating violence (18% LGB vs. 8% straight)
- Being bullied at school (34% LGB vs. 19% straight)
- Being bulled online (28% LGB vs. 14% straight)
These experiences can place LGB youth at substantial risk for series outcomes:
- More than 40% of LGB students seriously considered suicide and 29% reported attempting suicide in the past year.
- Sixty percent of LGB students reported having been so sad or hopeless that they stopped doing some usual activities.
- LGB students were up to 5 times more likely than other students to report using several illegal drugs.
- More than 1 in 10 LGB students have missed school during the past 30 days because of safety concerns.
The results above are based on results from two new questions regarding sexual identity and sex of sexual contacts in the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), the principal source of data for tracking health risk behaviors among U.S. high school students. YRBS does not tell us why we see such disparities between LGB and straight students, but CDC says other research suggests the differences could be due to social isolation, lack of parental or caregiver support, or not being perceived as being masculine or feminine enough.
CDC’s Dr. Jonathan Mermin says, “We all can raise awareness of the urgent prevention needs of LGB youth. But we must do more. Many of our current efforts address factors that can place any young person at risk. More work is needed to tailor these efforts and programs to the specific needs of LGB youth and to further understand their challenges. The information in this report is critical to our work to ensure all young people experience adolescence without threats of violence or bullying and become healthy and productive adults.”