Online Program

Sexual orientation, adult connectedness, and risk behaviors among adolescents: Findings from the 2009 New York City Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 8:45 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.

Kacie Seil, MPH, Injury Surveillance and Prevention Program, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York City, NY
Mayur M. Desai, PhD, MPH, Division of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT
Megan V. Smith, DrPH, MPH, School of Medicine, Dept of Epidemiology & Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Background: Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adolescents experience poor social integration and feelings of loneliness, which are associated with risk-taking behaviors. Since adolescents spend a significant amount of time in school, supportive relationships with adults in this setting may have a positive impact on this group.

Methods: We analyzed data from the 2009 New York City Youth Risk Behavior Survey (n=8,910) to examine the individual and joint effects of self-identifying as LGB and lacking a connection with an adult at school on risk behaviors among high school students. Risk behaviors of interest included alcohol use, marijuana use, illicit drug use, depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempt. We calculated frequencies to describe the distribution of the sample; odds ratios were calculated using logistic regression.

Results: Greater than half the sample (55%) was female, in 9th or 10th grade (57%), and heterosexual (89%). Heterosexual and LGB students similarly reported having an adult connection at school (79% vs. 78%, respectively). LGB students with no adult connection reported significantly more risk behaviors than heterosexual students with adult connections: alcohol use, OR=3.07; marijuana use, OR=5.07; illicit drug use, OR=4.94; depressive symptoms, OR=3.48; suicidal ideation, OR=6.48; suicide attempt, OR=6.15. Even when LGB adolescents had a school adult connection, their odds of all risk behaviors were significantly higher than for heterosexual adolescents.

Conclusions: LGB adolescents, particularly those who lack a connection with school adult, are at high risk for poor health outcomes. Interventions should focus on boosting social support and improving outcomes for this vulnerable group.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the individual and joint effects of (1) identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) and (2) lacking a supportive connection with an adult at school on a variety adolescent risk behaviors. Identify a vulnerable population that meaningful intervention could positively impact.

Keyword(s): Adolescents, Gay

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I worked with the New York City Youth Risk Behavior Survey for my graduate thesis project as well as an Epi Data Brief, published by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.