Youth’12 The Health and Wellbeing of Secondary School Students in New Zealand: Results for Young People Attracted to the Same Sex or Both Sexes

Lucassen, M. F. G.; Clark, T. C.; Moselen, E.; Robinson, E. M. and Adolescent Health Research Group (2014). Youth’12 The Health and Wellbeing of Secondary School Students in New Zealand: Results for Young People Attracted to the Same Sex or Both Sexes. Youth2000 Survey Series; The University of Auckland, Auckland.



Almost four percent (3.8%) of young people reported being attracted to others of the same sex or both sexes in Youth’12. This proportion is comparable to that found in the previous surveys conducted in 2001 and 2007, suggesting that over the past 11 years there has been no change in relation to the number of New Zealand secondary school students who are same/both-sex attracted. Furthermore these young people are ethnically, geographically, and socially diverse, and attend schools from around the country.

In 2012, the majority (53.1%) of same/both-sex attracted young people had ‘come out’ (i.e. told people close to them about their sexuality) whilst 31.3% of same/both-sex attracted students had come out in 2001. However, in Youth’12 only 14.4% of these young people said that they could easily talk to their family about their sexuality.

Most same/both-sex attracted students reported feeling positive towards school and described caring relationships with their parents and friends. Same/both-sex attracted students were also generous with their time in that they were more likely (than their opposite-sex attracted counterparts) to work as volunteers in their communities.

Although most same/both-sex attracted students are doing well, there are significant and harmful disparities when these students are compared to their opposite-sex attracted peers. Same/both-sex attracted young people are often exposed to environments that are challenging and discriminatory, and this in turn affects their wellbeing. For example, same/both-sex attracted youth are more likely to be bullied, be physically harmed, and to be afraid that someone would hurt or bother them at school. Furthermore, 59.4% of same/both-sex attracted students had deliberately self-harmed, 41.3% had significant depressive symptoms, 18.3% had attempted suicide in the last 12 months, and 35.7% had difficulty getting help for their emotional concerns. These mental health issues have not improved since 2001, and worryingly the proportion of same/both-sex attracted students experiencing significant depressive symptoms has increased from 27.0% in 2001 to 41.3% in 2012, while the proportion of opposite-sex attracted students with these symptoms has remained fairly constant (9.5% in 2007 and 11.4% in 2001 and 2012). This suggests that poor progress is being made in terms of addressing mental health concerns.

Overall this report highlights that while many same/both-sex attracted students are doing well, in comparison to opposite-sex attracted students, same/both-sex attracted young people continue to experience compromised health and wellbeing. Evidence from international studies suggest that reducing these disparities must focus on creating safe and nurturing environments which build upon the young person’s strengths and assets, and refrains from problematising (or pathologising) same/both-sex attracted young people.

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