Teens can be troubled, but a huge new study released this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that gay, lesbian or bisexual adolescents are more likely than their heterosexual peers to take unhealthy risks. The CDC found that gay or lesbian students had higher prevalence rates for seven of the 10 health risk categories: violence, attempted suicide, smoking, drinking, other drug use, risky sexual behaviors and weight management issues. Findings were similar for bisexual students as well.
Howell Wechsler, director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) stated:
“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. We are very concerned that these students face such dramatic disparities for so many different health risks.”
Besides gathering data on smoking, drinking and drug abuse, the study also examined rates of school absenteeism due to fear of violence (bullying), condom use, physical fitness, poor diet or problems with weight management, such as extended fasting to lose weight.
Bullying in general is on the rise. One out of nine secondary school students, or 2.8 million students, said they have been pushed, shoved, tripped, or spat on during the last school year. Another one-and-a-half million students said they were threatened with harm, and one million students reported they had their property destroyed during the school year.
Effective state and local public health and school health policies and practices should be developed to help reduce the prevalence of health-risk behaviors and improve health outcomes among sexual minority youths. In addition, more state and local surveys designed to monitor health-risk behaviors and selected health outcomes among population-based samples of students in grades 9-12 should include questions on sexual identity and sex of sexual contacts.
Laura Kann, chief of the Surveillance and Evaluation Research Branch at DASH continues:
“For youth to thrive in their schools and communities, they need to feel socially, emotionally and physically safe and supported. 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.”
There are many risks involved with being a teenager that can stem from peer pressure. The pressure to drink, experiment with drugs or have sex are only a few. Gay teenagers face these exact same pressures while also dealing with their own sexuality. Support groups have been created to help gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender teenagers deal with the problems they face, such as not fitting in at school.
Gay teenagers who feel they are at risk for suicide should seek immediate counsel from friends, family, parents, support groups or trained professionals. Also it is important to watch for warning signs. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a good place to start. They can be reached at www.afsp.org.
For the entire 133 page CDC report, click
Written by Sy Kraft