Even though acceptance is growing for LGBT teens, the world isn’t quite changing fast enough: Multiple recent studies show that LGBT teens have less life satisfaction and more depression than their straight peers, in part because so many face harassment.
LGBT teens are more likely to be suspended or expelled from schools, sometimes because they were trying to protect themselves from bullies. Other kids might drop out on their own or switch to a different school in search of a more welcoming environment.
But a recent study published in the Journal of Homosexuality found that gay, bisexual, and lesbian teens who simply switched schools or living situations did not fare as well as their peers who linked up with larger LGBT groups. For the study, the University of Arizona youth development professor Russell Toomey and his co-authors relied on a sample of people in their early 20s who were recruited from LGBT organizations near San Francisco. They examined the correlations between the kinds of strategies the young adults had used to cope with the stress of being a sexual minority in high school and their overall well-being in young adulthood.
They found that relying on LGBT-friendly organizations for support contributed to greater self-esteem and life satisfaction, and a smaller chance of being depressed or dropping out of high school. Meanwhile, using “alternative seeking” strategies, like switching to a new school, was associated with lower self esteem and life satisfaction, more depression, and a higher likelihood of dropping out of high school. Also ineffective were so-called “cognitive strategies,” in which the teens would try to distract themselves from their stress by becoming socially isolated or simply picturing a better future in adulthood.