While all 50 states have anti-bullying laws on the books, only 20 of them (and Washington D.C.) include specific protections for sexual minorities.
Researchers from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found areas with anti-bullying laws specifically protection gay, lesbian and bisexual students also saw lower rates of attempted suicides.
They also discovered that youth within these 20 states felt safer at school and journeying to and from it. The states also had lower incidences of sexual assault than in the other 30 states whose anti-bullying laws excluded sexual minorities.
Researchers caution, however, that even with a lower overall suicide rate, LGBTQ youth are still more likely than straight youth to experience suicidal ideation or even attempt to take their own lives.
Using data from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) covering students from 9th through 12th grades, researchers found that 34 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students had faced bullying in school within that year, compared to just 19 percent of straight students. Additionally, 28 percent of LGB students faced bullying online compared to just 14 percent of straight students.
Approximately 43 percent of lesbian, gay, or bisexual youth also considered suicide, and 29 percent actually attempted it. In comparison, only 15 percent of straight youth in 2015 reported suicidal ideation, and only 6 percent attempted suicide.
“Enumeration of sexual orientation in state anti-bullying laws is a first step,” said lead author Ilan H. Meyer via a press release. “These laws are associated with fewer suicide attempts but do not eliminate disparities between sexual minority and non-sexual minority youth.”
“Additional interventions, such as training teachers, instituting school-based support groups, and promoting social connectedness between youth and their communities may help reduce disparities in exposure to bullying and its ill effects for sexual minority youth,” Meyer added.