A groundbreaking study on teen sexuality reveals that gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers are at much greater risk for sexual violence, depression and suicide.
The CDC has released Health Risks Among Sexual Minority Youth, the first national study on the health risks facing gay and bi high school students in the U.S.
More than 15,000 students in grades 9 to 12 responded, and the statistics are alarming: Compared to their straight peers, gay and bi students are more likely to have:
* Been physically forced to have sex (18% LGB vs. 5% heterosexual)
* Experienced sexual dating violence (23% LGB vs. 9% heterosexual)
* Experienced physical dating violence (18% LGB vs. 8% heterosexual)
* Been bullied at school (34% LGB vs. 19% heterosexual)
Individually, such factors can negatively impact development. Combined, they place young gay people at much higher risk for depression, addiction and suicide.
Of the LGB students surveyed, 60% reported feeling so depressed they ceased doing some of their usual activities. More than 40% have seriously considered suicide, and 29% reported having attempted to take their own life in the past 12 months.
“I found the numbers heartbreaking,” the CDC’s Dr. Jonathan Mermin told The New York Times. “Nations are judged by the health and well-being of their children [and] many would find these levels of physical and sexual violence unacceptable and something we should act on quickly.”
Researchers say while solutions are not easy, the involvement of schools, communities, and families is crucial.
“For lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) students to thrive in their schools and communities, they need to feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe and supported,” says the CDC. “[We call] for accelerated action to protect the health and well-being of these young people. Coordinated action by schools and communities is needed to protect LGB students and address the health risks they face. ”
The report marks the first time the federal government’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which the Times calls “the gold standard of adolescent health data collection,” included sexual identity.
For the purposes of the report, sexual minority students were defined as those who self-identifyas gay, lesbian or bisexual; as well as those who had sexual contact with only persons of the same sex or with both sexes.
By that standard, the survey found that about 8% of the U.S. high school population, or 1.3 million young people, described themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual.
3.2% of students chose “not sure.” Among students who said they had “sexual contact” with only people of the same sex or with both sexes, 25% identified as heterosexual and 13.6% said they were not sure of their sexual identity.
Among students who had sexual contact only with someone of the opposite sex, 2.8% nonetheless described themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual.
The survey did not include information on trans or gender-nonconforming students or young people who have dropped out of school or are homeless.