LGBT+ teens more likely to do volunteer work

Dr Elena Vaughan and Dr András Költő, Postdoctoral Researchers at Health Promotion Research Centre, NUI Galway
Feb 15 2021 Posted: 09:16 GMT

Lesbian and gay youth are twice as likely to engage in volunteer work as heterosexual teens, research by academics at NUI Galway has revealed.

The findings are part of studies by the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Ireland team, based in the Health Promotion Research Centre at the University.

Of the 3354 young people participating in the study, 3% reported being attracted to the same sex, while 6.3% said that they are attracted to both boys and girls.

A report on the study - Connected, Respected, and Contributing to Their World: The Case of Sexual Minority and Non-Minority Young People in Ireland - revealed that bisexual youth were more likely than the other groups to be discriminated based on their age and gender.

It also found that bisexual youth were less likely than their heterosexual peers to report high family support or having a caring adult whom they can trust and that they were half as likely to feel that they are valued and respected. Bisexual youth were also less likely to report that they feel comfortable while being with their friends.

Analysis also showed that lesbian and gay young people were almost twice as likely to report often taking part in volunteering work.

Dr András Költő, of NUI Galway’s Health Promotion Research Centre and lead author of the report, said: “Not surprisingly, sexual minority adolescents were more likely to feel discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. They were also more likely to report discrimination based on their age and gender. However, a positive finding is that lesbian and gay youth are almost twice as likely to be engaged in volunteer work.

“This an aspect of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people’s lives that Irish studies have not previously explored. Lesbian and gay adolescents, probably because they have often faced discrimination and bullying, are often more aware of social inequalities and injustice than their non-minority peers and therefore may be driven to fight against injustice by volunteering. Other studies had shown that LGBT+ individuals often have compassion and empathy towards other minority groups (e.g., people with immigrant background or living with a disability) and are ready to advocate for their interests.

“LGBT+ communities often provide a safe haven and a source of support and care to them. It is important to make bisexual youth also feel welcome in LGBT+ communities and in society.”

Dr Költő added: “The results we have detailed are a key piece of research as part of the wider study of youth behaviour trends. It suggests that we should not think about LGBT+ young people as a uniform group. Our findings support that those identifying as bisexual are faring worse than those who identify as lesbian or gay.

“It is important to note, however, that there are adolescents who are still exploring their sexual orientation, and it may change even in adulthood. Those young people who feel that they are attracted to both boys and girls or identify as bisexual may need more help and support from their families, peers and teachers.”

The study compared findings across sex and social classes in the overall sample of 15 to 17-year-olds.

While a large majority of young people were not likely to report experiencing discrimination, girls were more likely to feel discriminated against based on their gender and age than boys.

Dr Elena Vaughan, contributing author of the report, said: “This finding suggests that sexism is an ongoing concern among young people in Ireland. Further studies to investigate how and in what contexts this is experienced by girls and young women would be helpful in identifying and implementing policy measures to address this issue.”

Dr Költő and Dr Vaughan said they hope that these findings will complement Ireland’s National LGBTI+ Youth Strategy 2018-2020, the world’s first governmental strategy that aims to improve sexual and gender minority young people’s health and wellbeing. 


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