Published: August 2, 2019

Australian lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning (LGBQ) adolescents are worse off than their heterosexual peers across health and wellbeing outcomes, according to a University of Queensland study.

Dr Francisco Perales, from UQ’s Institute for Social Science Research and a Life Course Centre Research Fellow, said the findings draw attention to the deep disadvantage experienced by LGBQ youth in Australia. “The risks of self-harm, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, and peer and emotional problems are particularly heightened in LGBQ youth – emphasising the need for effective intervention to improve their outcomes,” Dr Perales said.

The researchers analysed data from The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, which is a national probability survey following the lives of almost 10,000 children from around Australia since birth or early childhood. “More than 3000 youth reported on their sexual orientation in 2014, when they were 14-15 years old,” Dr Perales said. “Adolescents and their parents were also asked to report on a range of markers of the child’s health and wellbeing. We already knew that sexual-minority adults in Australia experienced poorer health and wellbeing than their heterosexual counterparts. Now we know that these differences start early within the life course – during or before adolescence.”

The study is the first of its kind to identify the domains of health and wellbeing on which disparities between sexual-minority and heterosexual teens differed the most, highlighting those requiring priority intervention. The unique pressures faced by LGBQ youth, such as homophobic bullying at school and rejection by family members upon ‘coming out’ were the most likely sources of these health problems. “Identifying effective and efficient interventions to improve the outcomes of these young people should be an urgent task for researchers and policy-makers.”

Dr Francisco (Paco) Perales is an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award Fellow. The study, co-authored by UQ and Life Course Centre PhD student Alice Campbell, was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. You can access the full journal article here.