JOURNAL ARTICLE

Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12 - United States and Selected Sites, 2015

Laura Kann, Emily O'Malley Olsen, Tim McManus, William A Harris, Shari L Shanklin, Katherine H Flint, Barbara Queen, Richard Lowry, David Chyen, Lisa Whittle, Jemekia Thornton, Connie Lim, Yoshimi Yamakawa, Nancy Brener, Stephanie Zaza
MMWR Surveillance Summaries 2016 August 12, 65 (9): 1-202
27513843

PROBLEM: Sexual identity and sex of sexual contacts can both be used to identify sexual minority youth. Significant health disparities exist between sexual minority and nonsexual minority youth. However, not enough is known about health-related behaviors that contribute to negative health outcomes among sexual minority youth and how the prevalence of these health-related behaviors compare with the prevalence of health-related behaviors among nonsexual minorities.

REPORTING PERIOD: September 2014-December 2015.

DESCRIPTION OF THE SYSTEM: The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors six categories of priority health-related behaviors among youth and young adults: 1) behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence; 2) tobacco use; 3) alcohol and other drug use; 4) sexual behaviors related to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including human immunodeficiency virus infection; 5) unhealthy dietary behaviors; and 6) physical inactivity. In addition, YRBSS monitors the prevalence of obesity and asthma and other priority health-related behaviors. YRBSS includes a national school-based Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) conducted by CDC and state and large urban school district school-based YRBSs conducted by state and local education and health agencies. For the 2015 YRBSS cycle, a question to ascertain sexual identity and a question to ascertain sex of sexual contacts was added for the first time to the national YRBS questionnaire and to the standard YRBS questionnaire used by the states and large urban school districts as a starting point for their YRBS questionnaires. This report summarizes results for 118 health-related behaviors plus obesity, overweight, and asthma by sexual identity and sex of sexual contacts from the 2015 national survey, 25 state surveys, and 19 large urban school district surveys conducted among students in grades 9-12.

RESULTS: Across the 18 violence-related risk behaviors nationwide, the prevalence of 16 was higher among gay, lesbian, and bisexual students than heterosexual students and the prevalence of 15 was higher among students who had sexual contact with only the same sex or with both sexes than students who had sexual contact with only the opposite sex. Across the 13 tobacco use-related risk behaviors, the prevalence of 11 was higher among gay, lesbian, and bisexual students than heterosexual students and the prevalence of 10 was higher among students who had sexual contact with only the same sex or with both sexes than students who had sexual contact with only the opposite sex. Similarly, across the 19 alcohol or other drug use-related risk behaviors, the prevalence of 18 was higher among gay, lesbian, and bisexual students than heterosexual students and the prevalence of 17 was higher among students who had sexual contact with only the same sex or with both sexes than students who had sexual contact with only the opposite sex. This pattern also was evident across the six sexual risk behaviors. The prevalence of five of these behaviors was higher among gay, lesbian, and bisexual students than heterosexual students and the prevalence of four was higher among students who had sexual contact with only the same sex or with both sexes than students who had sexual contact with only the opposite sex. No clear pattern of differences emerged for birth control use, dietary behaviors, and physical activity.

INTERPRETATION: The majority of sexual minority students cope with the transition from childhood through adolescence to adulthood successfully and become healthy and productive adults. However, this report documents that sexual minority students have a higher prevalence of many health-risk behaviors compared with nonsexual minority students.

PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION: To reduce the disparities in health-risk behaviors among sexual minority students, it is important to raise awareness of the problem; facilitate access to education, health care, and evidence-based interventions designed to address priority health-risk behaviors among sexual minority youth; and continue to implement YRBSS at the national, state, and large urban school district levels to document and monitor the effect of broad policy and programmatic interventions on the health-related behaviors of sexual minority youth.

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