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Study: LGBTQ Youth Bullied At Twice The Rate of Hetero Youth

A new U.S. survey finds that 91% of LGBTQ adolescents report at least one experience of bias-based bullying, more than double the estimates from previous studies of predominantly heterosexual youth.

While experts recognize detrimental health consequences often stem from the distress of being stigmatized for their sexual and gender identities, little is known about how being mistreated for other reasons (such as their weight, race/ethnicity, religion, disability status) may also contribute to their health.

Researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut explain that by the time a LGBTQ youth reaches middle school, sexual and gender minority adolescents (SGM) are at heightened risk of suicide, depression, sleep troubles, and eating disorders. As such, investigators wanted to understand the wide range of bias-based bullying experienced by SGM adolescents and if they also may influence health risk.

“Given that multiple forms of bias-based bullying can worsen negative health behaviors, it is critical to understand how school-based interventions, such as Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs), may be able to reduce targeted bullying,” said Dr. Leah Lessard, postdoctoral fellow at the Rudd Center and lead author of the study.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, reports findings from the LGBTQ National Teen Survey. The survey is a comprehensive tool conducted in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign to assess victimization, health behaviors, family relationships, and experiences of LGBTQ adolescents across the United States.

Researchers asked participants ages 13-17 questions about school-based GSAs, their experiences of bias-based bullying, and health risk indicators, including stress, sleep problems, depression, and unhealthy weight behaviors.

The key findings of the survey include:

  • 73 percent of SGM adolescents surveyed reported experiences of bias-based bullying for reasons beyond their sexual or gender identities, such as being bullied because of their body weight (57 percent), race/ethnicity (30) percent) and religion (27 percent);
  • each type of bullying was positively related to health risk, including depression, sleep problems, stress, and unhealthy weight control behaviors;
  • the presence of a Gay Straight Alliance at school was associated with less bullying of students for their weight, gender, religion, disability and sexuality.

Investigators believe that given these results, GSAs have positive implications for not only students facing LGBTQ-related bullying, but also for those who experience other types of bias-based bullying. They believe that by reducing rates of targeted victimization, these organizations may help lower the risk of unhealthy behaviors in vulnerable adolescents.

“The harmful effects and wide range of bias-based bullying experienced by SGM youth calls attention to the importance of promoting broad-reaching inclusion and acceptance within schools, ” said Lessard.

“Due to the breadth of stigma-reduction across multiple social identities, our results underscore GSAs as a promising avenue to support healthy outcomes for SGM youth.”

These findings are particularly important as schools face new challenges in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As smartphones and social media usage increase, the possibility for bias-based cyberbullying does too.

Educators and student leaders can host virtual GSA meetings and utilize online learning platforms to continue to foster social inclusion for adolescents at risk for victimization in the absence of in-person meetings.

Source: UConn Rudd Center

Study: LGBTQ Youth Bullied At Twice The Rate of Hetero Youth

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2020). Study: LGBTQ Youth Bullied At Twice The Rate of Hetero Youth. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 24 Jun 2020 (Originally: 24 Jun 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 24 Jun 2020
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