LGBTQ youth in B.C. are still more likely to face a vast array of challenges than their straight peers, but a University of B.C. report suggests things are slowly improving.
Using the data of 30,000 Grade 8 to 12 students surveyed from between 2008 and 2018, UBC’s Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre and the McCreary Centre Society found LGBTQ teens are experiencing safer environments and fewer health risks than previous generations.
One of the largest improvements was around physical bullying experienced by lesbian girls, which more than halved from 2008 to 2018. Physical assaults also dropped for bisexual boys and girls, according to the report.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual teens were less likely to attempt suicide in 2018 than in earlier years, although they remained at a higher risk than their straight peers.
Improvements were also seen around pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, running away from home and cannabis use, according to the report. For each indicator, the gap between LGBTQ youth and their straight peers lessened.
The report also looked at teen’s involvement in extracurriculars, and noted that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth were more involved in art, music and drama than their straight peers. Gay boys were more likely to have attended a dance, yoga or exercise class than straight boys in 2018. All of these were marked as positive indicators of quality of life and health.
Even larger improvements were seen when researchers compared the new data to similar surveying conducted between 1992 and 2003.
“In that first study, we showed that the health gaps between LGBTQ youth and their straight peers were linked to stigma and discrimination, with higher rates of bullying and abuse, and lower levels of family and school connectedness,” McCreary executive director and report lead author Annie Smith said in a news release.
Stigma and discrimination remain though, Smith said.
Sexual minority youth are still more likely to report unsafe home environments, experience worse mental health and endure violence or abuse than straight youth, according to the report.
One key to improvement, the researchers say, is having more supportive adults in LGBTQ youth’s lives.
“If we can keep focusing on inclusion and support across B.C., the lives and health of LGBTQ young people will continue to get better,” senior author Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc said.
When asked what they’d like to see changed, LGBTQ youth overwhelming responded that they want sexual health education that goes beyond their straight peer’s experiences.
The full study can be found on UBC’s website.