Gay teenagers are faced with the same peer pressures as heterosexual teens. But a new study suggests their sexuality can lead them to be at a greater risk for engaging in unhealthy behaviors. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gay, lesbian and bisexual teens were more likely to take part in seven out of the 10 high risk activities, including drinking, smoking, drug use, attempted suicide, violence, weight management, and risky sexual practices. Director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH), Howell Wechsler, said, “This report should be a wake-up call for families, schools and communities that we need to do a much better job of supporting these young people. Any effort to promote adolescent health and safety must take into account the additional stressors these youth experience because of their sexual orientation, such as stigma, discrimination and victimization. We are very concerned that these students face such dramatic disparities for so many different health risks.”
The study also took into account the truancy rates of these teens, bullying, nutritional practices and safe sexual activity, specifically condom use. The researchers believe that better school health and public health policies and interventions should be put in place to lower the level of risky behaviors prevalent in this segment of the teen population. They also believe that screenings for high school age students should include information regarding their sexual preference, in order to better monitor health outcomes.
Chief of the Surveillance and Evaluation Research Branch at Dash, Laura Kann, added, “For youth to thrive in their schools and communities, they need to feel socially, emotionally and physically safe and supported. Schools and communities should take concrete steps to promote healthy environments for all students, such as prohibiting violence and bullying, creating safe spaces where young people can receive support from caring adults, and improving health education and health services to meet the needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth.”
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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