Does Bullying ‘Get Better’ for LGBT Youth?

Young student bullied by other student at schoolDespite efforts to reduce stigma and bullying directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) children and young adults, more than a third continue to experience severe bullying, according to a study published in The American Journal of Public Health.

More than 613,000 people have pledged to end anti-LGBT bullying through the “It Gets Better” campaign since its inception in 2010. Though the majority (84.6%) of study participants reported decreased bullying over the four years of the study, bullying did not improve for all participants. The study’s authors emphasize that parents, legislators, and other advocates should not take it for granted that things always improve for LGBT youth, insisting anti-bullying efforts must continue.

LGBT Bullying: Some Improvements Over Time

The study began in 2007 and followed 248 Chicago teens and young adults who either reported same-sex attractions or identified as LGBT. More than half of participants (54.7%) were African-American, and the average age at the start of the study was 18.7. Using structured psychiatric interviews, researchers assessed participants for depression and posttraumatic stress (PTSD). Participants also answered questions about their experiences with bullying.

Over the four years studied, bullying rates tended to decline, with 65.4% reporting an overall low rate of bullying that continued to decrease. An additional 19.2% reported high rates of bullying, but also said the bullying decreased over time. For 10.3% of the participants, moderate bullying increased. An additional 5.1% reported high levels of bullying throughout the four-year study period. LGBT teens who experienced high rates of bullying also had higher rates of depression and PTSD, even when the bullying decreased over time.

The Importance of Anti-Bullying Prevention Efforts

Some study participants reported bullying severe enough to be considered a criminal act. Many participants reported physical and sexual assaults or intimidating harassment, such as having objects thrown at them. More severe harassment and more frequent harassment correlated with higher rates of depression and PTSD.

The study’s authors say increased awareness of anti-LGBT bullying is not enough, and the issue continues to be a problem for many teens and young adults. They say their results should serve as clear evidence that schools must continue or expand anti-bullying interventions.


  1. Mustanski, B., Andrews, R., & Puckett, J. A. (2016). The effects of cumulative victimization on mental health among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and young adults. American Journal of Public Health. doi:10.2105/ajph.2015.302976
  2. Samuelson, K. (2016, February 9). It doesn’t ‘get better’ for some bullied LGBT youth. Retrieved from

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  • pierce t

    February 18th, 2016 at 10:42 AM

    I do think that for many it does get a little easier over time, specifically if they learn to think for themselves and they become more comfortable with their own personal feelings. I think that the more that others witness just how good you feel about yourself, then they see you as less of a target for that horrible bullying behavior.

  • Molly

    February 19th, 2016 at 12:41 PM

    So what if it could get better over time- still will not change what they have had to deal with in the past

  • Morris D

    February 20th, 2016 at 11:22 AM

    Ultimately you have to understand that anyone who identifies as LGBT in this country is going to have a tough time. It just still is not something that is readily accepted. I know because I am a gay make and feel like I live in a straight only world. I wish that there were more people who would wear the mindset that they are straight, but not narrow minded. Unfortunately that can be a hard combination to run across/

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