That gay teens are more likely to consider suicide is a well-known and tragic fact. But now research indicates that gay and bisexual teens are also more likely to engage in a wide range of risky behavior -- such as using drugs, alcohol and tobacco; having unprotected sex; and trying to lose weight through diet pills or vomiting.
The news comes from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis released Monday of survey responses by high school students between 2001 and 2009.
The analysis used data from surveys of students who were asked a plethora of questions related to risky behaviors, such as how often they wore bicycle helmets while riding bikes, whether they’d driven a car after drinking alcohol, whether they’d tried cocaine or heroin, and whether they’d had multiple sex partners. The students had also been asked about their sexual orientation.
For most of the questions, teens who were sexual minorities—those who identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, or who reported having sexual contact with the same sex or both sexes—were more likely to have engaged in risky behavior than their heterosexual peers.
Exactly why is unclear. The authors write in the report’s discussion:
“These results do not explain why certain health-risk behaviors are more likely to occur among some subgroups of students defined by sexual identity or by sex of sexual contacts. Many high school students, regardless of their sexual identities or sex of sexual contacts, transition from childhood to adulthood successfully and become healthy and productive adults.”
More large-scale research is needed if we’re to understand the reasons for such differences in risk-taking behavior – and to intervene effectively, the authors say.
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