Gay and Lesbian Teens More Likely to Engage in Risky Behaviors

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 Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Hazel Watson

    Hazel Watson

    June 11th, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    “They also believe that screenings for high school age students should include information regarding their sexual preference, in order to better monitor health outcomes.”

    Really? And they don’t think that would be considered an invasion of privacy to ask about that? I would.

  • lawson


    June 11th, 2011 at 2:51 PM

    Maybe if we were a little more open minded and willing to talk with gay teens in the same straightforward manner that we talk with heterosexual teenagers then this problem of risk taking could be avoided. Maybe they feel like they do not know the risks involved with certain sexual behaviors so young because there is no one there to listen to their concerns. Maybe this is not the life that you would choose for them or for yourselves but it is the road that they have chosen to take and they deserve to have someone who cares to give them the guidance and acceptance that we all needed and desired at that age.

  • SImoNE


    June 12th, 2011 at 4:45 AM

    We have to do a better job of listening to these kids, plain and simple.
    Don’t you think that often when kids engage in these bahaviors it is a cry for help? That is more than likely what is going on in these cases too.

  • beth


    June 12th, 2011 at 11:16 PM

    you know why they involve in risky behavior?it has nothing to do with their sexual preferences. no. actually it has to do with the behavior of us ‘straight’ people! it is us that they find the need to constantly prove themselves. it is because of our prejudice and discrimination against them. if that stops so will this risky behavior in gay people!



    June 13th, 2011 at 6:24 AM

    Just goes out to show the BGLT community still doesn’t feel like it’s fully incorporated into the society and that they are still subjected to bias from the others.This needs to stop or it could turn into a major problem in the future.

  • Tha Draco

    Tha Draco

    June 13th, 2011 at 6:00 PM

    It could be true that how others treat them is making them indulge in risky behavior but it could also be that this is their way of showing their rebellion,that they are different…you never know because you gsters can go on to do some crazy things for sure…

  • SimoneRoseberry


    June 15th, 2011 at 11:33 PM

    I asked a gay friend of mine his thoughts on this and he said it was a lot of rubbish, and that the riskiest thing he does is have occasional unprotected sex with his boyfriend.

    (I consider that risky even if he doesn’t.)

    He’s also one of the most docile guys that I can think of and doesn’t smoke or drink to my knowledge.

  • Jakob GoldStein

    Jakob GoldStein

    June 16th, 2011 at 7:03 PM

    @Simone: It only says more likely, not always. If the riskiness issue is related to the discrimination they have to deal with in this country and beyond, it’s one more reason why we need to teach more tolerance and acceptance of alternative lifestyles.

    Until that concept’s taken on board by the education system, it’s going to be an uphill battle. I think it will happen one day but I feel we’re at least another generation away from that.

  • Dee Thornton

    Dee Thornton

    June 16th, 2011 at 8:33 PM

    @Jakob: Agreed. When we talk about protecting other races, everyone thumbs it up. When we talk about equal rights for the sexes, everyone supports it. When we talk about protecting homosexuals, there are objections. Why?

    All the gay community wants is the same as what the heterosexuals want: to be accepted for who they are, to live their lives in peace with a nice home and family, and to be with another they love and cherish. It’s not too much to ask.

  • H.L. Hudd

    H.L. Hudd

    June 18th, 2011 at 8:28 PM

    I’m curious as to whether this increased riskiness also apply to blacks, Asians, atheists, Jews, and Muslims . In a predominantly white and Christian country, those minorities deal with harassment and discrimination on a daily basis. Gays aren’t the only ones who have to deal with this outdated discrimination nonsense.

    Sadly we haven’t evolved into a more compassionate manner of thinking as rapidly as we should have. Any form of discrimination should be the stuff of history books by now.

  • Kristin McPherson

    Kristin McPherson

    June 19th, 2011 at 10:13 PM

    A student’s sexual orientation is nobody’s business. Schools shouldn’t be prying into those kinds of things at all, and if they do, they should make it crystal clear that they can refuse to answer. I hate to think what the repercussions would be if their records were hacked by students and the information became public.

    Tell you what, let’s agree it’s fine to ask that if the school’s board of governers and all the school’s staff from the janitor right up to the principal are happy for their sexual preferences to be held on file too at school. It’s only fair and since it will be
    secure there’s no reason to object, right?

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