LGB Student Health Risks

The transition from childhood to adulthood can cause much anxiety and uncertainty for young people. All teens are faced with risk factors (certain aspects of life that can be associated with an increased likelihood of behaviors that threaten health and well-being) as well as potentially possessing protective factors (aspects of life that are associated with a reduced risk of engaging in problem behaviors). For example, some common risk factors for adolescents include substance abuse, low self-esteem, and physical or emotional abuse (Miller, 2001). Likewise, common protective factors include high-self esteem and family involvement (Blum, Beuhring & Rinehart, 2000).

Teen substance abuse, weapon-related violence, suicide attempts and unprotected sexual behavior are certainly among the predominant public health concerns in our nation. However, these same concerns for lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) youth are particularly alarming. While most LGB youth grow up to lead satisfying, productive lives, adolescents who report same-sex attraction or behavior appear to be at increased risk for a large number of health and mental health outcomes when compared to their heterosexual peers. For example:

  • Recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that young men who have sex with men accounted for 34% of all new AIDS cases among 13 to 24-year-olds. Black and Latino sexually active young men are at particular risk for HIV infection (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000).

  • A study appearing in the Journal of the American Medial Association of 15 to 22 year old young men who reported having sex with other men in 7 metropolitan areas indicated an overall HIV infection rate of 7.2%. The highest HIV prevalence was among African-American (14.1%) and multiracial (12.6%) youth (Valleroy et al., 2000). Recent data released at the 2001 National Retrovirus Conference appeared to confirm high rates of HIV infection in particular for young, Black gay men in urban areas. Bisexual male youth appear to have a consistent pattern of higher AIDS risk behavior when compared to young men reporting same-sex only behavior, including multiple partners, unprotected intercourse, STD diagnosis, and injected drug use. (Goodenow et al., 2002).

  • Gay and bisexual male youth are also at risk for a variety of sexually transmitted diseases, as are bisexual females and lesbian youth who have sex with male partners (Ryan & Futterman, 1998).

  • Research indicates that adolescent females that identify as lesbian, bisexual or questioning are at an increased risk of unintended pregnancy (Saewyc, Bearinger, Blum & Resnick, 1999).

  • Data released from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health showed that youth who report same-sex attraction or behaviors also reported higher levels of emotional distress, greater use of alcohol and marijuana, and earlier sexual debut (Resnick et al., 1997). Additional data released from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health indicated that girls and boys reporting same-sex attraction were at higher risk for being in a physically dangerous fight and being jumped or attacked. (Russell et al., 2001).


Blum, R.W., Beuhring, T., & Rinehart, P.M. (2000). Protecting teens: Beyond race, income and family structure. Center for Adolescent Health, University of Minnesota, 200 Oak Street SE, Suite 260, Minneapolis, MN.

Goodenow, C., Netherland, J., & Szalcha, L. (2002). AIDS-related risk among adolescent males who have sex with males, females, or both: Evidence from a statewide survey. American Journal of Public Health, 92(2), 203-210.

Reis, B. (1996). Safe Schools Anti-Violence Documentation Project, Third Annual Report. Seattle: Safe Schools Coalition.

Remafedi, G., French, S., Story, M., Resnick, M.D. & Blum, R. (1998). The relationship between suicide risk and sexual orientation: Results of a population-based study. American Journal of Public Health, 88(1), 57-60.

Resnick, M.D., Bearman, P.S., Blum, R.W., Bauman, K.E., Harris, K.M., Jones, J., Tabor, J., Behring, T., Sieving, R.E., Shew, M., Ireland, M., Bearinger, L.H., & Uldry, J.R. (1997). Protecting adolescents from harm; Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. Journal of the American Medical Association, 278 (10), 823-832.

Russell, S.T., Franz, B.T., & Driscoll, A.K. (2001). Same-sex romantic attraction and experience of violence in adolescence American Journal of Public Health, 91(6), 903-906.

Ryan, C. & Futterman, D. (1998). Lesbian and Gay Youth: Care and Counseling. New York: Columbia Press.

Saewyc, E.M., Bearinger, L.H., Blum, R.W. & Resnick, M.D. (1999) Sexual intercourse, abuse and pregnancy among adolescent women; Does sexual orientation make a difference? Family Planning Perspectives, 31(3), 127-131.

Valleroy, L.A., MacKellar, D.A., Karon, J.M., Rosen, D.H., McFarland, W., Shehan,D.A., Stoyanoff, S.R., LaLota, M., Celentano, D.D., Koblin, B.A., Thiede, H., Katz, M.H., Torian, L.V., & Janssen, R.S. (2000). HIV Prevalence and associated risks in young men who have sex with men. Journal of the American Medical Association, 284(2), 198-204

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