Just over one in three LGBTQ youth believe their chances of living until the age of 35 are low, according to new research, reflecting the dire mental health struggles faced by many young LGBTQ people in the United States.
The results of the Trevor Project’s annual national survey on the mental health of LGBTQ young people, released Wednesday, reveal troubling trends among respondents — including high rates of suicide risk and insufficient access to mental health care.
“This survey gives a voice to LGBTQ young people — at a time when their existence is unfairly at the center of national political debates and state legislatures have introduced and implemented a record number of anti-LGBTQ policies,” said the Trevor Project in a news release about the research.
The annual national survey includes responses from 28,000 members of the LGBTQ community between the ages of 13 and 24 from across the United States.
According to the survey, 41% of LGBTQ young people said they’d seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year — with transgender, nonbinary, and/or people of color reporting higher rates than their peers. Fourteen percent of LGBTQ young people said they did attempt suicide in the past year, a statistic that includes nearly one in five transgender and nonbinary young people and nearly one in 10 cisgender young people.
A total of 67% of LGBTQ young people reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety, while 54% reported experiencing symptoms of depression.
And despite 81% of LGBTQ young people saying they wanted mental health care, 56% of those who wanted mental health care in the past year said they were not able to get it.
“LGBTQ young people are not inherently prone to suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” the survey authors wrote, “but rather placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society.”
A record amount of anti-LGBTQ legislation was filed in the U.S. in 2023, with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recording at least 508 bills targeting the community, 84 of which were passed into law.
As a result, nearly one in three respondents said their mental health was poor most of the time or always due to anti-LGBTQ policies and legislation, and nearly two in three said that hearing about potential state or local laws banning people from discussing LGBTQ people at school made their mental health a lot worse.
LGBTQ young people who had access to affirming homes, schools, community events, and online spaces reported lower rates of attempting suicide compared to those who did not, according to the survey. The results found that affirming gender identity among transgender and nonbinary young people — such as having pronouns respected, having access to gender-neutral bathrooms, and having access to gender-affirming clothing — was consistently associated with lower rates of attempting suicide.
For the first time ever, the survey also asked respondents to describe a world where all LGBTQ people are accepted. The responses featured words such as “safe,” “kinder,” “equal,” “respectful,” “peaceful,” “different,” “colorful,” and “free.”
“Despite the prevalence of unique challenges, barriers to care, and relentless political attacks,” the authors wrote, “LGBTQ young people remain hopeful and resilient.”
The Trevor Project’s analysis includes suggested solutions to the many challenges LGBTQ youth currently face, including helping young members of the community develop their life purpose and engage in worthwhile, meaningful activities that align with their values and interests.
“Helping LGBTQ+ young people thoughtfully engage in daily activities and identify reasons for living could be life-saving for youth,” the authors said. “In these discussions and explorations, it is critical to be non-judgmental and to support the authentic interests of LGBTQ+ young people.”