Gay and bisexual young adolescents experience more problems with lifestyle and wellbeing than their heterosexual peers, according to a study by a government social and cultural think tank.
The SCP, which analysed Dutch data from a 2017 international study on health behaviour, has found that young people from 11 to 16 who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual (LGB) were more likely to have sleep problems, overuse social media and were three times as likely to feel unhappy.
Their family and school situation were likely to play a significant role in their feelings, the study found. Despite some decrease in reported bullying, these young people had far lower wellbeing than their heterosexual peers.
There were, however, some improvements since the last round of research. In 2013, 53% of those identifying as LBG had psychological problems, while in 2017, this was 43%. The youngsters in the earlier survey were more likely to say they were overweight and have sleep issues such as sleeping longer or feeling more tired.
‘The support that young LGB people get from their family is an important base for their wellbeing,’ the researchers said. ‘[But] because they get less support at home than heterosexual young people, they feel unhappy more often’
The researchers suggest this group was more likely to look for and find support online. However, they said, a downside of this ‘pull towards online life’ was a greater tendency to problematic social media behaviour such as conflicts and experiencing bullying, at the expense of life satisfaction and bonds with people like teachers.
‘These findings are particularly relevant in the light of coronavirus, where the risk of overuse of social media and online bullying has increased for the young LBG population,’ the researchers said in a news release.
However, they pointed out that attention to different minority identities and preferences in recent years could be positive for acceptance.
The researchers added that ‘questioning youth’, that is young people who do not yet have a fixed identity, had experiences which fell between those of the the two groups studied.
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