Results of the first nationwide study asking high school students questions pertaining to their sexuality show that gay, lesbian, and bisexual teenagers face higher rates of depression, bullying, and violence than their straight peers.
“I found the numbers heartbreaking,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, a senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes a division that administered the survey.
This is the first time that the federal government’s bi-annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey looked at sexual identity, and the findings show 8% of the entire high school population across the country consider themselves to be gay, lesbian or bisexual. In total, the number includes 1.3 million students. More than 40% of these students said they have considered committing suicide in the last year, and almost 30% have actually attempted it, compared to 15% of straight students considering suicide and 6% attempting it.
The report went on to state that 18% of queer students report being forced to have sex, while just 5% of their straight peers said the same. Bisexual and gay students were found to be twice as likely to have been the victim of physical and sexual dating violence.
The same group of students were twice as likely to have been bullied by being threatened or actually injured with a weapon on school property. In all, more than one in ten said they have skipped school due to feeling unsafe. Researchers say that such behavior can have long-term impacts on graduation rates as well as post-high school success.
More than 60% of LGBT respondents said they were either sad or felt hopeless, reports Louise Liu for Business Insider.
This group of students were also found to be five times more likely to inject drugs and four times more likely to try dugs such as meth and heroin. A previous report released by the Center for American Progress found people who are part of the LGBT community typically use drugs more often in an effort to deal with discrimination and prejudice.
“Nations are judged by the health and well-being of their children,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, the director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, told The New York Times. “Many would find these levels of physical and sexual violence unacceptable and something we should act on quickly.”
Although the study does not discuss the issue itself, Dr. Deb Houry, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control suggested that this group of students could be at a higher risk for violence due to a lack of support in addition to not being looked upon as masculine or feminine enough.
Houry went on to say that as a result of the study, additional intervention and prevention programs will be created to help these students in an effort to increase the number of mental health services available.
While the survey did not include an option for students to identify themselves as transgender, Jan Hoffman writes for The New York Times that the option may come in the future, as the CDC are currently working with other federal health agencies to create a question on gender identity in order to gain a reliable count of transgender teenagers. A spokeswoman for the survey states that the question could be ready for a pilot test in 2017.