Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth who live in communities with a supportive religious climate are less likely to engage in risky health behaviors, finds a new study in APHA’s American Journal of Public Health.
Researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health examined whether the health risk behaviors of lesbian, gay and bisexual youths are determined in part by the religious composition of the communities in which they live. They collected data from almost 32,000 high school students, including about 1,400 lesbian, gay and bisexual students who participated in the Oregon Healthy Teens survey from 2006 through 2008. Supportive religious climate was defined as the proportion of individuals who adhere to a religion that is supportive of homosexuality. Researchers used data on religious climate from 85 denominational groups in 34 Oregon counties.
They found that for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth, living in a county with a religious climate that was supportive of homosexuality was associated with significantly fewer alcohol abuse symptoms and fewer sexual partners.
“This research could ultimately aid public health efforts to reduce health disparities among LGB adolescents by providing information regarding the targeting of prevention intervention programs to LGB youths living in higher-risk environments,” the researchers wrote. “Developing interventions that diminish the negative psychosocial consequences of living in social environments that stigmatize homosexuality remains an important public health priority.”