Feature

Why gay teens take more unhealthy risks: 4 theories

A new study finds that LGBT teens are more prone to dangerous behavior than their heterosexual peers. Why?

It's no secret that teenagers are prone to foolish, risky behavior. But a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that gay, lesbian, and bisexual high schoolers are more like likely than their heterosexual peers to smoke, drink, use drugs, have unprotected sex, and be bulimic. While the exact reasons why LGBT teens would be more likely to engage in such behavior are unclear, plenty of commentators are offering up their own explanations. Here are four:

1. They're socially stigmatized"Many risky behaviors are related to how people feel about themselves and the environment they're in," says Laura Kann with the CDC's Division of Adolescent Health, as quoted by The Huffington Post. LGBT teens might be more prone to risky behavior because they feel socially rejected and stigmatized by their straight peers.

2. Plus, gay teens are bullied"It's possible that gay-bashing reduces teens' sense of self-worth and makes them less likely to take care of themselves," says Anna North at Jezebel. If so, this shows that the effects of bullying go beyond making someone feel bad in gym class, and "that equality isn't just a moral issue, but one of personal safety."

3. They don't have enough support"Schools and communities should take concrete steps to promote healthy environments for all students," says Kann, as quoted by Medical News Today. LGBT youth especially need "safe spaces" and "caring adults" so they don't succumb to peer pressure and engage in risky behavior.

4. Maybe they're just more honestIt's important to note that these numbers are self-reported, "so it's possible that gay and bisexual teens are simply more willing to own up to their risky behaviors" than their straight peers, says North.

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