Young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual People Are Twice As Likely To Be Bullied Than Their Straight Peers

Teenagers bullying friend at the school
Teenagers bullying friend at the school
funstock via Getty Images

Teenagers aged 14 to 16 who are lesbian, gay or bisexual are twice as likely to be physically bullied and socially excluded than their straight peers at school, a new report has revealed.

LGB adults aged 20 are also more likely to be victims of bullying than their heterosexual friends, having a 52% chance of being bullied, compared to a 38% chance for the latter group.

Young LGBT adults are less likely than their heterosexual peers to report being ‘very satisfied’ with how their lives had turned out so far. However, all young adults – regardless of sexual identity – are less likely to be very satisfied with their lives if they had been bullied.

The study, called Next Steps, examined the experiences of more than 7,200 young adults from England who were born in 1989 or 1990. At age 20, the young adults were asked about their sexual identity and whether they had been bullied in the previous 12 months. Dr Morag Henderson, of UCL's Institute of Education (IOE), compared this information to their experiences of being bullied in secondary school.

Previous research has shown the scarring effects of childhood bullying on physical and mental health can persist well into middle age.

Research conducted by The Huffington Post UK in 2014 found the majority of universities had little or no reports of homophobic abuse in the past five years, despite warnings homophobia is "ingrained" in society, leading to the National Union of Students saying the figures painted a false picture of acceptance.

The NUS has warned homophobia at university is often dismissed as "banter", and urged institutions to "step up" their responsibility for gay, bi and transgender students.

Addressing the findings, Dr Henderson said: "Although all people are less likely to be bullied as they get older, young LGB adults remain at higher risk than their peers.

"Anti-bullying interventions cannot be focused only at schools and their pupils. Policymakers, employers, further education institutions and others working with young adults need to do just as much in order to challenge discrimination at all ages."

In 2012, the Welsh arm of Stonewall appealed to the country's government to tackle homophobic bullying in the wake of a shocking report which revealed nearly a quarter of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people have attempted to take their own life.

Stonewall's School Report 2012 found 41% lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) pupils deliberately harm themselves as a result of bullying while 55% experience homophobic bullying at school.

The same year, a study by the NUS revealed only a third of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) students at college or university participate in organised team sport, with 37.8% of those saying they are not open about their sexuality with their teammates.

Nearly half (46.8%) of LGBT students who do not take part find the culture alienating or unwelcoming, while 41.9% had a negative experience at school which made them avoid sports at college or university.

Commenting on Monday's bullying figures, Anna Henry, chair of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, added: "We also need to consider how wider prejudices within society have a long lasting impact on bullying behaviour – even into adulthood. We all need to take responsibility for bullying behaviour – whether it is happening in schools, our communities or online.

"It is vital that all children and young people are empowered to speak out about bullying."