Federal Study Shows LGB Teens More Prone to High Risk Behaviors

Lesbian, gay and bisexual-identifying high-school students are much more likely to use tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, engage in high risk sexual and violent behaviors as well as self-harm when compared to their straight-identifying peers according to a newly published comprehensive study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

From the CDC press release:

Researchers analyzed data from Youth Risk Behavior Surveys conducted during 2001–2009 in seven states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin — and six large urban school districts — Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, San Diego, and San Francisco. These sites collected data on high school students’ sexual identity (heterosexual, gay or lesbian, bisexual, or unsure), sex of sexual contacts (sexual contact with the opposite sex only, with the same sex only, or with both sexes), or both.

The study, “Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9–12 in Selected Sites — Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, United States, 2001–2009,” was published as a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summary. Findings across 76 health risks in the following 10 categories are highlighted:

- Behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries (e.g., rarely or never wore a seat belt)

- Behaviors that contribute to violence (e.g., did not go to school because of safety concerns)

- Behaviors related to attempted suicide (e.g., made a suicide plan)

- Tobacco use (e.g., ever smoked cigarettes)

- Alcohol use (e.g., binge drinking)

- Other drug use (e.g., current marijuana use)

- Sexual behaviors (e.g., condom use)

- Dietary behaviors (e.g., ate vegetables 3 or more times per day)

- Physical activity and sedentary behaviors (e.g., physically active at least 60 minutes per day for 7 days)

- Weight management (e.g., did not eat for 24 hours or more to lose weight or to keep from gaining weight)

The study found that gay and lesbian students had higher rates for seven of the 10 health risk categories: behaviors that contribute to violence, behaviors related to attempted suicide, tobacco use, alcohol use, other drug use, sexual behaviors, and weight management.

Bisexual students had a higher prevalence for all health risks measured but were higher even than gay and lesbian identifying teens in the following risk categories: behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries, behaviors that contribute to violence, behaviors related to attempted suicide, tobacco use, alcohol use, other drug use, sexual behaviors, and weight management.

The study’s results will be of little surprise to most, but this report is the first time the federal government has conducted such a wide scale study into these risk behaviors where LGB students are concerned.

Researchers are clear in saying that the wellbeing of LGB teens must be prioritized and that stigma surrounding LGB identity must be tackled in schools and wider communities if these increased risk factors are to be brought down:

“For youth to thrive in their schools and communities, they need to feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe and supported,” said Laura Kann, Ph.D., chief, Surveillance and Evaluation Research Branch, DASH. “Schools and communities should take concrete steps to promote healthy environments for all students, such as prohibiting violence and bullying, creating safe spaces where young people can receive support from caring adults, and improving health education and health services to meet the needs of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth.”

“This report should be a wake-up call for families, schools and communities that we need to do a much better job of supporting these young people. Any effort to promote adolescent health and safety must take into account the additional stressors these youth experience because of their sexual orientation, such as stigma, discrimination, and victimization,” said Howell Wechsler, Ed.D, M.P.H, director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH). “We are very concerned that these students face such dramatic disparities for so many different health risks.”

For more information and for the full results of the study please click here.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Cesar Augusto Serna Sz.


Dodia Fae
Dodia Fae6 years ago

@ Joseph P - The second part of that has, for some reason, been removed. Here it is again:
(Cont'd from last post...)

So that summer I did it for free and learned what I needed to do, and by November I started putting out ads in the Bay Area Reporter. My ads were sort of genderf**k: my picture was taken from the neck down in a corset, fishnets and garter belt. It was a dom-type look. I realized there weren’t that many guys into doing S/M professionally, and the ones that were were really butch—so I stood out a lot. It was great. It was the first time I had really good sex, I was getting paid for it, and I felt totally in control. It was good, but I was wondering how many people I was losing by advertising as a fem dom. I started putting ads online without the fem look and got a lot more response, so I switched to just having a nude picture in the paper as opposed to a girlish one. The responses were more than I could handle, which is a good thing. That’s how I got into sex work, as a way of exploring my sexuality.

. . .

S: How has your self-image improved from doing sex work?

M: I feel a lot more confident and secure with myself. I think that has a lot to do with S/M and coming into my own power."

**** Keep in mind that I've edited out the "F" word. If anyone is offended by this, or feels that it's inappropriate for this website, how is it appropriate for school children?

Joseph P.
Dr Joseph Pizzo6 years ago

As a veteran (25 years) teacher and administrator who has a PhD in English (which means I certainly know what's appropriate and when), I find nothing intrinsically wrong with the text cited. It certainly should not be used in elementary or middle school or as an introduction to the topic for high school students. As a gay male, I always have supported my kids teachers AND staff — and my superintendent selected me for this job and the school board appointed me ANYWAY. We can address homophobia and hate. I recently hear that one of my asst. principals who is in charge of a suspension site had his English teacher remove any gay-themes (or bi-themes, etc) books from classroom. I made a surprise visit, told him that hate in not a family in our district and added that he not only would receive a Letter of Reprimand, but that I had decided NOT to recommend him for tenure. Unless he wants to revert to being a teacher (which means I decide where he works), he'll see firsthand how hate can ruin a career). One of his fellow supervisors ratted him out to me — that's how upset she was and she's a very capable str8 women with a husband and two kids. Teen-agers think they're invulnerable and invincible. As a former high school teacher and principal, I know what a hard job we have trying to convince them otherwise before something tragic happens. Middle schoolers are sexually active, too. (I've been a MS principal and THAT job was a real wakeup call that I carried back to my boss.)

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal6 years ago

If this group were predator priests instead of gay teens, we could blame Woodstock.....

Marcheal G.
Marcheal G6 years ago

Parents need to start being parents.

Amanda M.
Amanda M6 years ago

I blame the bigoted society that slaps these horrible stigmas on the LGBT kids for their actions. When society says you're "evil" and "dirty" and "perverted" simply because of a quirk in your DNA that you were born with and there's no support structure to be had, how do you think these kids are going to react?

Until society wakes the hell up and realizes that a person is capable of making valuable contributions to society no matter what their gender, race, religion, or sexuality and stops being a bunch of close-minded bigots towards anybody who is different from a mythical "norm," we're just going to see more of this kind of thing. It's absolutely disgusting.

Jon Hoy
Jonjon Hoy6 years ago

Teens now days are into the dare devil stage to be who they are and not realize what their getting into even though they have a right to be who they are. Love is blind, but it comes with a price tag if your not careful.

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

Teenagers in general have it hard since that's a very confusing and emotional time, but GLBT youth have it even tougher and have their difficulties compunded by hateful, intolerant, homophobic, bigots that have nothing better to do with their time than to make life harder for others.

I agree with you Leslea S. Well said.

Leslea S.
Leslea S.6 years ago

Given that everyone from teachers, peers, parents, government & media ALL go out of their way to dismiss their value as people, it's a wonder that MORE LGBT teens aren't at higher risk!

I don't blame the kids for this. I put it squarely on the shoulders of the folks mentioned above. This is on them.

Dodia Fae
Dodia Fae6 years ago

What do we expect when the following is part of the "recommended reading" for grades 7-12?

"Minal is a young queer from India and has been a sex worker in the S/M scene for a year and a half. He has taken a break from sex work and lives in San Francisco. In this interview Minal talks about his journey into sex work as a way of uplifting his self-esteem around body-image issues, his feeling of empowerment doing sex work in drag. . .

. . .

S: How did you get into sex work?

M: Well, before I get into that I have to tell you how I got into S/M generally, since I used to be a complete vanilla bottom. I’m gay, by the way; I’m exploring being transgendered, and I’ve been doing drag for about ten years, on and off. Drag was never a sexual thing for me, I’ve always had sex “as a guy.” Around March of last year a friend asked me about rape fantasies—she wanted to know what my fantasies were. I realized I hadn’t been fantasizing at all. When I did start thinking about it, my fantasies were all about whipping. I started reading up on S/M, and it was making me interested in sex for the first time. Before, I never knew what the big deal was with sex. I put a personal ad in the paper to do scenes with different people, and I realized that for what I was doing, I could be getting good money. I had a lot of friends in the sex industry who were asking me, “Why aren’t you charging for what you’re doing?”

(Cont'd next pos

Nicolette MARITZ6 years ago

No, really? And this is news? Perhaps we should be more concerned with the reasons "why" than confirming information that quite frankly, we already know.