YRBS & Sexual Orientation
young gay couple

Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) & Sexual Orientation

Students that identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning (LGBQ) their sexual orientation are at risk for significant health disparities when compared to their heterosexual counterparts.

LGBQ youth often internalize negative societal messages regarding sexual orientation. This may influence them to use negative coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse.

Beginning in 2003, the Boulder County Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) included a demographic question allowing students to identify their sexual orientation. Most pronounced in the 2011 YRBS results is the fact that LGBQ students in surveyed Boulder County high schools have higher prevalence rates of nearly all types of risk behavior:

  • Violence, such as having been harassed on school property in the 12 months prior to the survey
  • Sexual health, such as having ever been forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to
  • Substance use, such as having drunk alcohol (more than a few sips) before age 13
  • Mental health, such as having attempted suicide in the 12 months prior to the survey

Note that this is county-level data, as 2011 sexual orientation data are not reported at the district level.

The only risk behaviors for which LGBQ students have lower (more favorable) prevalence rates than heterosexual students are: current tobacco use, having tried to quit cigarette smoking, binge drinking, and 3+ hours of video/computer games per day. LGBQ prevalence rates for all other risk behaviors were higher than among heterosexual students.

LGBQ prevalence rates for nearly all preventive behaviors were lower (less favorable) than among heterosexual students. In no specific preventive behavior was the heterosexual prevalence rate significantly less favorable than the LGBQ prevalence rate.

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