Young adulthood can often be a dangerous time for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth who were victimized in middle school and high school.

Researchers report many abused individuals show impaired health as they begin adulthood including depression, suicide attempts that require medical care, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and risk for HIV.

The new study is the first to examine the relationship between school victimization during adolescence – specifically related to sexual orientation and gender identity – with multiple dimensions of young adult health and adjustment.

The study, published in the Journal of School Health, validates the importance of addressing and preventing anti-LGBT victimization at the school level to reduce health disparities among LGBT young people.

Study authors reviewed experiences related to school victimization during adolescence based on known or perceived LGBT identity among 245 LGBT young adults, ages 21 to 25.

They found that LGBT young adults who were victimized in school because of their LGBT identity reported much higher health and adjustment problems, while students with low levels of school victimization had higher self-esteem and life satisfaction as young adults.

“We now have evidence of the lasting personal and social cost of failing to make our schools safe for all students,” said lead author, Stephen T. Russell, Ph.D. “Prior studies have shown that school victimization of LGBT adolescents affects their health and mental health. In our study we see the effects of school victimization up to a decade later or more. It is clear that there are public health costs to LGBT-based bullying over the long-term.”

Study co-author Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., pointed out, “The pervasiveness of bullying and lack of research on outcomes in adulthood have masked the serious long-term health costs for LGBT children and youth.”

Ann P. Haas, Ph.D., Director of Prevention Projects for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said, “This new study provides compelling evidence that negative environments pose long-term health and mental health risks for LGBT youth.”

Source: San Francisco State University