Gay and bisexual high schoolers are four times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year than their straight classmates, according to the first nationally representative study of queer youth. The new Centers for Disease Control report confirms health differences between LGB and straight teens: far more of the former experience the negative health measures, the study tracks — from physical violence to poor mental health to injecting drugs.
It’s already been established that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults are often less healthy, both because of trouble getting health care and because factors like social stigma lead to higher rates of depression and mental illness. Previous studies have found that LGBT teens are more likely to be homeless and are at higher risk for suicide, but the new report — which did not include statistics for transgender teens — is the first that covers the entire US high school population.
Perhaps the most somber result is that nearly one-third of gay and bisexual students have recently attempted suicide, while 43 percent seriously considered it. The numbers for straight students are 6 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
Queer students are also at much higher risk for rape and domestic violence. About 18 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students have been physically forced to have sex, compared to about 5 percent of straight students. Bisexual and gay students are twice as likely to have experienced both physical and sexual dating violence. They’re also twice as likely to have been bullied — both on school property and online — and, accordingly, to have skipped school because they felt unsafe.
When it comes to drug use, queer teens are five times more likely to inject drugs and four times more likely to try harder drugs like heroin and meth. This is consistent with previous reports suggesting people in the LGBT community use more substances to cope with prejudice.
Statistics don’t explain the disparities, but plenty of other research suggests that many factors — including the lack of a supportive network and not being perceived as either masculine or feminine enough — put youth at risk for violence, according to Deb Houry, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
The study is published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It uses data from the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey and looks at over 100 behaviors of both gay and straight high school students.