A new study has found that gay and bisexual teens are more likely to engage in risky behavior than their straight counterparts. A possible culprit: bullying.
The AP reports on a CDC study which asked 150,000 high school students about risky actions all the way from riding a bike without a helmet to making a suicide attempt. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual teenagers were more likely to take risks in 50-90% of the categories surveyed. According to the AP, "one CDC official explains that gay, lesbian and bisexual students deal with stigma and disapproval, which can contribute to a kid taking risks."
The conclusions are based on self-reports and not on observation, so it's possible that gay and bisexual teens are simply more willing to own up to their risky behaviors. However, there is other evidence that homophobic treatment could make kids more risk-prone. An earlier study by the Family Acceptance Project showed that kids who experienced anti-gay bullying at school were more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors and contract STDs by young adulthood. It's possible that gay-bashing reduces teens' sense of self-worth and makes them less likely to take care of themselves. If that's the case, it's yet more evidence that bullying has wide-ranging effects beyond simply making kids feel bad at school — and that equality isn't just a moral issue, but one of personal safety.
CDC Study: Gay, Bisexual Teens Do Riskier Things [AP, via NPR]
Image via Arno van Dulmen/Shutterstock.com