Data from a new study suggests that young LGBTQ+ people in America aren’t comfortable in their own skin — literally.
Researchers found that some LGBTQ+ youth are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with their bodies, with trans and nonbinary youth showing even higher rates. Also, LGBTQ+ youth who reported body dissatisfaction were significantly more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year than those who expressed being satisfied.
The Trevor Project is a nonprofit organization that provides crisis mental health services to LGBTQ+ young people and also conducts research on the experiences and issues they face as they grow up.
There were 34,000 young LGBTQ+ people from around the country who participated in the study.
It found that 87 percent of young LGBTQ people reported dissatisfaction with their bodies. Among trans and nonbinary youth, about nine in ten respondents noted dissatisfaction compared to eight out of ten of their cisgender peers.
The prevalence of recent depression symptoms for LGBTQ+ youth with body dissatisfaction was higher than for youth with body satisfaction. For LGBTQ+ youth who reported body dissatisfaction, 61 percent reported self-harm and 48 percent considered suicide in the last year. In comparison, 38 percent of LGBTQ+ youth who were satisfied with their bodies had self-harmed and 27 percent considered suicide, the study found.
LGBTQ+ youth who were dissatisfied with their bodies had a twice higher chance of having attempted suicide in the past year than LGBTQ teens who were satisfied with their bodies, according to the study.
The study notes that research shows that young people who receive gender-affirming care report improved body satisfaction.
The Trevor Project’s director of research science, Myeshia Price, warns that society must stop telling young people that they can achieve some physical perfection.
“These findings underscore that an overwhelming majority of LGBTQ youth struggle with body dissatisfaction, something that can severely impact their mental health and contribute to higher odds of attempting suicide,” Price said in a statement. “As LGBTQ youth across the U.S. consume media and messages related to health and physical fitness – especially during this time of year, in relation to new year’s resolutions – we must do a better job of centering body acceptance and healthy lifestyles rather than encouraging young people to achieve a certain physical appearance.”
Price added, “We encourage all youth-serving professionals, including educators, physicians, and health care providers, to discuss how body image may be impacting the LGBTQ youth they support.”
If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678.