Researchers in the US say that the social stigma that surrounds lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) teens can lead to a variety of health risks such as substance use, risky sexual behaviours, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, and victimisation.

An editorial in the September issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health calls on clinicians and health researchers to lead the charge in improving the health and well-being of LGBT teens in America.

“As clinicians, we should recognise how negative societal reactions related to sexual orientation and gender identity can affect our patients’ health,” said senior author Mark Schuster, MD, PhD, chief of General Paediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston and William Berenberg Professor of Paediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

“Clinicians have a responsibility to offer a safe, expert environment in which LGBT youth can get support, receive excellent care, and learn how to protect against health risks,” he said.

The piece expands on a study, also appearing in the September issue of the journal, that examined health care preferences among LGBT youth, and confirmed that LGBT teens want the same health care that all adolescents should receive.

Recent findings, from research by Dr. Schuster and others, have suggested that many clinicians do not know their patients’ sexuality in part because clinicians are not creating opportunities for teens to disclose it.

The researchers said that sexual orientation and gender identity measures should be standardized and routinely included in studies and survey to better understand the needs of LGBT youth.

They also recommended that clinicians receive training on how to appropriately provide comprehensive and sensitive care, and seek out educational resources to help improve the quality of care they provide to LGBT teens.

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