Monday, December 15, 2014

Colorado lesbian, gay and bisexual youth more likely to face health challenges


A newly expanded state survey of youth health reveals lesbian, gay and bisexual high school students in Colorado face serious physical and mental health challenges. According to the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, students who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) were six times more likely to attempt suicide, five times more likely to be forced into sex, three times more likely to smoke cigarettes and twice as likely to smoke marijuana or be bullied than their heterosexual classmates.

The survey also revealed these young people were less likely to be engaged in school or have someone to turn to with their problems. However, LGB youth who reported they had someone to talk to about their problems, felt safe at school or participated in extracurricular activities were less likely to have attempted suicide in the past year.

“Being a teenager is hard enough, but for gay, lesbian and bisexual kids, there are a host of prejudices and stigmas to navigate that can affect their health,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We will use what we learned from this survey to guide our continued efforts to promote health equity.”

The health department worked with the state departments of Education and Human Services and the University of Colorado Denver to expand the biannual Healthy Kids Colorado Survey in 2013, collecting information on a wide range of health behaviors from more than 40,000 randomly selected students from 220 middle and high schools across Colorado. For the first time, this survey captured Colorado-specific data by region and sexual orientation.  

The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey informs state, local and school strategies for improving the health of young people throughout Colorado. The new regional data will allow communities and local health agencies to focus on specific health issues. And the health disparities identified by the survey will focus the department’s ongoing efforts to engage young people in positive activities.

Leo Kattari, health policy manager at One Colorado, said, “It's important to note the health challenges experienced by Colorado's LGB youth are not due directly to their sexual orientation or gender identity, but rather the bullying, societal stigma and unfair barriers they face each and every day. We remain committed to ensuring all young people in Colorado have the opportunity to live their lives openly, honestly, and with the health and happiness we all deserve. We know our continued partnership with CDPHE is a vital part of that mission.”
To research a wide range of state and regional data on youth health in Colorado, go to www.healthykidscolo.org.

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