On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study which showed that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) high school students are significantly more likely than their straight peers to be susceptible to health risks such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, being victims of violence, and attempting suicide. This report summarized eight years of Youth Risk Behavior Surveys administered to over 156,000 public school students in grades 9-12, with sample sizes ranging from approximately 3,700 to 37,000 students over multiple survey years. These surveys measured a wide variety of health risks and health-risk behaviors.
Some of the 135 page study’s key findings reported that LGB teens at a higher risk for:
- Suicide Attempts. 26 percent of lesbian and gay students and 28 percent of bisexual students report having attempted suicide at least once in the previous year, compared to 6 percent of straight students
- Sexual Violence. 24 percent of lesbian and gay students and 23 percent of bisexual students report having been forced to have sexual intercourse, compared to 7 percent of straight students
- Feeling Unsafe. 21 percent of lesbian and gay students and 13 percent of bisexual students report having missed school in the last 30 days because they feared for their safety, compared to 5 percent of straight students.
- Drinking and Driving. 15 percent of lesbian and gay students and 13 percent of bisexual students report having driven while drinking alcohol, compared to 8 percent of straight students.
- Physical Assault. 16 percent of lesbian and gay students and 9 percent of bisexual students report having been injured in a physical fight, compared to 3 percent of straight students
The findings from this groundbreaking study were unveiled by researchers from the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health at this week’s historic Federal Summit on LGBT Youth. We applaud the federal government for investing the resources necessary for conducting this important research and feature it so prominently at a Department of Education sponsored event for LGBT youth and their advocates. The findings from this report will help organizations like PFLAG continue to raise awareness and provide recommendations on how to address the risks far too many LGBT youth endure. The report also assists in helping us continue to advocate for better data collection methods to understand the risks that transgender youth in particular experience.
Lastly, we must remember that these findings do not show that lesbian, gay, and bisexual teenagers are inherently more prone to risky behaviors; rather, they demonstrate the impact of a school culture, and communities in general, that are hostile to LGB students. The CDC report notes that creating “safe and welcoming school environments” is essential to reducing the number of LGB students who are susceptible to health risks.
One of the ways PFLAG can help foster safe and welcoming schools that cultivates respect for all is by engaging more parents and community members in the process. If you are interested in building safer schools and communities, please visit our website and learn about our Cultivating Respect training program or contact our Safe Schools Coordinator today!