Nearly every LGBTQ+ teenager in the United States has been bullied, according to new research.
A study published Monday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports that 91 percent of adolescents in this demographic was the target of at least one instance of bias-based bullying. This whopping figure is more than double previous estimates.
Additionally, 73 percent of LBGTQ+ youth have experienced bullying for factors beyond their sexual orientation or gender identity, such as body weight (57 percent), race/ethnicity (30 percent), and religion (27 percent).
Bullying can lead to adverse impacts on health, including heightened stress, depression, sleep disorders, and unhealthy weight, the study warned. It is also associated with an increased risk of suicide.
The study was authored by researchers from the University of Connecticut's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, using data from the LGBTQ National Teen Survey, a nationwide evaluation conducted in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign.
In the report, lead author Leah Lessard said the findings call attention to "the wide range of bias-based bullying experienced by SGM adolescents," meaning sexual and gender minority young people.
"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," Lessard said.
In addition to asking about bias-based bullying and health risk indicators, the survey queried participants (ages 13 to 17, from across the U.S.), about gay-straight alliances in schools. The study found that the presence of a GSA correlated with less bullying.
"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," Lessard said. "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" in the pandemic, the study noted, as cyberbullying rises and many young people no longer have access to in-person support groups. Researchers recommend that educators "host virtual GSA meetings and utilize online learning platforms to continue to foster social inclusion for adolescents at risk for victimization."
The Trevor Project also provides a number of resources for LGBTQ+ young people who need to talk, including its 24/7 TrevorLifeline (866-488-7386), TrevorChat, and TrevorText programs. The nonprofit has experienced record surges in use of those services during the pandemic. Learn more at TheTrevorProject.org.