Article

Sexual identity, sex of sexual contacts, and health-risk behaviors among students in grades 9–12—YRBSS: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, selected sites, United States; 2001–2009

Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, GA 30341, USA.
MMWR. Surveillance summaries: Morbidity and mortality weekly report. Surveillance summaries / CDC 06/2011; 60(7):1-133.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Sexual minority youths are youths who identify themselves as gay or lesbian, bisexual, or unsure of their sexual identity or youths who have only had sexual contact with persons of the same sex or with both sexes. Population-based data on the health-risk behaviors practiced by sexual minority youths are needed at the state and local levels to most effectively monitor and ensure the effectiveness of public health interventions designed to address the needs of this population.
January 2001-June 2009.
The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors priority health-risk behaviors (behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries, behaviors that contribute to violence, behaviors related to attempted suicide, tobacco use, alcohol use, other drug use, sexual behaviors, dietary behaviors, physical activity and sedentary behaviors, and weight management) and the prevalence of obesity and asthma among youths and young adults. YRBSS includes state and local school-based Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBSs) conducted by state and local education and health agencies. This report summarizes results from YRBSs conducted during 2001-2009 in seven states and six large urban school districts that included questions on sexual identity (i.e., heterosexual, gay or lesbian, bisexual, or unsure), sex of sexual contacts (i.e., same sex only, opposite sex only, or both sexes), or both of these variables. The surveys were conducted among large population-based samples of public school students in grades 9-12.
Across the nine sites that assessed sexual identity, the prevalence among gay or lesbian students was higher than the prevalence among heterosexual students for a median of 63.8% of all the risk behaviors measured, and the prevalence among bisexual students was higher than the prevalence among heterosexual students for a median of 76.0% of all the risk behaviors measured. In addition, the prevalence among gay or lesbian students was more likely to be higher than (rather than equal to or lower than) the prevalence among heterosexual students for behaviors in seven of the 10 risk behavior categories (behaviors that contribute to violence, behaviors related to attempted suicide, tobacco use, alcohol use, other drug use, sexual behaviors, and weight management). Similarly, the prevalence among bisexual students was more likely to be higher than (rather than equal to or lower than) the prevalence among heterosexual students for behaviors in eight of the 10 risk behavior categories (behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries, behaviors that contribute to violence, behaviors related to attempted suicide, tobacco use, alcohol use, other drug use, sexual behaviors, and weight management). Across the 12 sites that assessed sex of sexual contacts, the prevalence among students who had sexual contact with both sexes was higher than the prevalence among students who only had sexual contact with the opposite sex for a median of 71.1% of all the risk behaviors measured, and the prevalence among students who only had sexual contact with the same sex was higher than the prevalence among students who only had sexual contact with the opposite sex for a median of 29.7% of all the risk behaviors measured. Furthermore, the prevalence among students who had sexual contact with both sexes was more likely to be higher than (rather than equal to or lower than) the prevalence among students who only had sexual contact with the opposite sex for behaviors in six of the 10 risk behavior categories (behaviors that contribute to violence, behaviors related to attempted suicide, tobacco use, alcohol use, other drug use, and weight management). The prevalence among students who only had sexual contact with the same sex was more likely to be higher than (rather than equal to or lower than) the prevalence among students who only had sexual contact with the opposite sex for behaviors in two risk behavior categories (behaviors related to attempted suicide and weight management).
Sexual minority students, particularly gay, lesbian, and bisexual students and students who had sexual contact with both sexes, are more likely to engage in health-risk behaviors than other students.
Effective state and local public health and school health policies and practices should be developed to help reduce the prevalence of health-risk behaviors and improve health outcomes among sexual minority youths. In addition, more state and local surveys designed to monitor health-risk behaviors and selected health outcomes among population-based samples of students in grades 9-12 should include questions on sexual identity and sex of sexual contacts.

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    • "For drug use/disorders, only few studies reported negative/reversed effects, and only in certain subgroups: gay/homosexual but not bisexual individuals (Robin, et al., 2002), questioning individuals (Button, et al., 2012), or for marijuana (at least for certain subgroups) but not for harder drugs (Faulkner & Cranston, 1998; Kann, et al., 2011; Mustanski, et al., 2014; Orenstein, 2001). "
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    • "NPH policy discourse frequently attributes any emotional, psychological, and social problems experienced by LGBT students to their " unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle " (Prichard, 2010). Recall from the introduction , however, that although LGBT students do report higher rates of psychological and education-related risk (Robinson & Espelage, 2011), these same students are more frequently victimized and bullied than their heterosexual peers (Kann et al., 2011;Kosciw et al., 2012;Robinson & Espelage, 2011). This is a potential factor behind LGBT students' emotional, psychological, and social insecurity that does not often draw commentary from NPH policy advocates. "
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    • "Furthermore, heterosexually identifying individuals who have same-sex behaviors may be actively exploring their sexuality as part of typical sexual identity development (Morales Knight & Hope, 2012), which can occur during high school. The dissonance between sexual identity and sexual behaviors is well documented, particularly among youth and adolescents (Kann et al., 2011; Saewyc et al., 2004; Savin-Williams, 2001), highlighting the importance of exploring sexual identity and behaviors as separate categories. These exploratory analyses are among the first to distinctly look at the social, environmental, and sexual HIV risk factors associated with sexual identity and sexual behavior among adolescents, independently. "
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