Gay Teens Are Less Healthy

A new CDC study cites some startling statistics about LGB youth

Bullying has been on the gay community’s radar when it comes to lesbian, gay and bisexual youth, but according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), gay teens have a lot more to worry about than harassment. While mistreatment and unsupportive home environments surely contribute to poor decision making for many of these young people, there are new fears that LGB young people are doing serious damage to their minds and bodies long before they reach adulthood.

Not only are LGB teens more at risk for suicide compared to their heterosexual classmates, but they’re also in danger of several major health risks, says the CDC.

For starters, between 8 and 19 percent of straight teens are cigarette smokers. By comparison, between 20 and 48 percent of LGB teens admit they regularly smoke. The same jump in numbers occurs when it comes to binge drinking and drug use among lesbian, gay and bisexual youth.

Violence and weight issues also impact LGB teens at a higher rate compared to heterosexuals in the same age group, often as the result of this unhealthy behavior.

Bisexual teens are at an especially high risk when it comes to alcohol and drug use and other unhealthy behaviors. While straight students who engage in this behavior range from 5.9 to 44.4 percent (and gay students range from 17.3 to 44.4 percent) among bisexuals, the percentage increased between 33 to 63.3 percent.

“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,” says Howell Wechsler, director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health. “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.”

Across each category, LGB teens had higher rates for all dangerous health risks compared to heterosexuals in the same age group.

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