LGB teens at greater risk of poor mental health, new study finds

Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) members of your generation were five times more likely to be depressed in adolescence, compared to heterosexual teenagers.

LGB young people were also more likely to experience additional problems at the same time, including other mental health conditions, unhealthy habits and difficulties getting on with their peers and family members.

What we asked you

When you were age 14, we asked you whether you were attracted to members of your own sex, both sexes, or the opposite sex.

We also asked you questions about your mental health, health habits, and relationships with family, friends and peers.

What the researchers found

The findings have highlighted the struggles faced by LGB young people, providing important evidence to help all teenagers flourish as they’re growing up.

As well as being at greater risk of depression, LGB teens were almost six times more likely to have self-harmed in the past year, three times more likely to be unsatisfied with life, and tended to have lower self-esteem than their heterosexual peers.

LGB teens were also more likely to have drank alcohol, smoked, and used cannabis in the past – but were no more likely to use these substances regularly.

They had greater odds of being overweight and obese at age 14, tended to exercise less, and were more likely to diet. However, LGB adolescents were no more likely to have had sex or engaged in risky sexual behaviour than their heterosexual peers at this age.

LGB teens were more likely to have been bullied by siblings, peers and online, and also had increased odds of experiencing verbal, physical and sexual assault. Although they tended to be less close to their mothers and fathers, and argued more with both parents, they were just as likely to have close friendships as heterosexual 14-year-olds.

LGB teens were also more likely than heterosexual adolescents to experience multiple problems at the same time. After looking at 28 different risk factors, the researchers found that LGB young people experienced an average of nine of these difficulties at one time, while heterosexual teens faced six, on average.

Out of 9,885 of you who provided information about your sexual attraction at age 14, 629 reported being attracted to members of the same sex or both sexes – 481 girls and 148 boys. The remaining 9,256 of you reported being attracted to the opposite sex.

Why is this research important?

The researchers said that while there have been big steps towards equality for LGB people in the last few years, this study shows there’s still a long way to go. However, because of the data your generation has provided, policymakers in government, mental health professionals and teachers will now be able to provide better support and guidance to LGB young people.

Find out more about this research

This research was carried out by researchers at the University of Liverpool and UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies. Read the full paper here.