D Gregory Smith

Bullying Linked to Increased Suicide Risk, HIV Infection

Filed By D Gregory Smith | May 17, 2011 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bullying, HIV/AIDS, increased risk, kids, LGBT youth, parents, safe schools, San Francisco State, scientific study, STD's, teachers, violence

A new study in The Journal Of School Health gives another reason to protect school-age LGBT's from bullying and threats of violence. This is the first study to examine school victimization in adolescence in relation to physical and mental health in later life- and the results are not surprising:

We now have evidence of the lasting personal and social cost of failing to make our schools safe for all students. Prior studies have shown that school victimization of LGBT adolescents affects their health and mental health. In our study we see the effects of school victimization up to a decade later or more. It is clear that there are public health costs to LGBT-based bullying over the long-term, said lead author, Stephen T. Russell, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, University of Arizona.

Those public health costs include higher suicide attempts, increased risk of contracting STD's (including HIV), and greater levels of anxiety and depression - mostly due to decreased levels of self-worth directly related to victimization.

Key research findings after the jump.

Key Research Findings:

  • LGBT young adults who reported high levels of LGBT school victimization during adolescence were 5.6 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.6 times more likely to report a suicide attempt that required medical care, 2.6 times more likely to report clinical levels of depression, 2.5 times more likely to have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, and nearly 4 times more likely to report risk for HIV infection, compared with peers who reported low levels of school victimization.
  • Gay and bisexual males and transgender young adults reported higher levels of LGBT school victimization than lesbian and bisexual young women.
  • LGBT young adults who reported lower levels of school victimization reported higher levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction and social integration compared with peers with higher levels of school victimization during adolescence.

This provides substantial scientific evidence to create safer environments for our youth. Please share with school administrators, teachers and parents.

San Francisco State University. "School bullying, violence against LGBT youth linked to risk of suicide, HIV infection." ScienceDaily, 16 May 2011. Web. 17 May 2011.

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This is kinda like a "Duh" moment for me. Bullying damages the self-esteem and that leads to destructive behavior.

Makes sense. We should be examining why our culture teaches children to bully one another - I don't think it's natural for that to be happening and, if it is, humans probably evolved better ways of dealing with it.

It might be intuitive to most of us, but the scientific credibility is very important here-
especially for rural schools and communities who often have a "They'll grow out of it and get over it" mentality.

Yes, Gregory, you are absolutely right ... Even though these findings might be no-brainers for us, we need this type of scientific study (and repeat studies) for two important reasons:

(1) Intuitive expectations are not always borne out by such studies -- while this study presented no surprises, many studies do. Moreover, sometimes the surprises are startling, while other times they can be quite subtle.

(2) As you point out, such studies are needed to pave the way politically for anti-bullying programs in our schools. Not only is there the pooh-pooh "They'll get over it" set, there are also fundamentalist groups that grandstand endlessly about how their "religious free speech rights are being violated" -- Oh, puke!

People For The American Way just released a paper on the "anti-anti-bullying" movement. It can be read online and/or downloaded here:


Thanks so much, Gregory, for telling me about this SFSU study report!