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Bias-based bullying amplifies emotional distress in youth with multiple marginalized social positions

The level of emotional distress was as much as 60% lower among adolescents with the same social positions but no bias-based bullying experience. Here, bias-based bullying is an important point for intervention and mitigation of mental health disparities, particularly among LGBTQ+ adolescents.

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Youth who share similar social positions of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender have much greater levels of emotional distress if they have experienced bias-based bullying — defined as racist, homophobic or transphobic bullying.

This is according to a study from the University of Minnesota Medical School. Titled “Emotional Distress Disparities Across Multiple Intersecting Social Positions: The Role of Bias-Based Bullying”, and written by Marla E. Eisenberg, Samantha E. Lawrence, Hana-May Eadeh, Malavika Suresh, G. Nic Rider, and Amy L. Gower, the study was published in Pediatrics.

“We hear a lot about mental health disparities affecting minority youth, and a common misinterpretation is that ‘those kids’ have problems,” said Eisenberg.

And so the researchers analyzed 2019 Minnesota Student Survey data on more than 80,000 students in grades 9 and 11. They then team used models to identify rates of depression, anxiety, self-injury, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

“When kids are harassed or bullied for just being who they are — that’s the problem, that’s where we need to make changes,” said Eisenberg.

The findings suggest bias-based bullying is a contributing factor to emotional distress among youth with multiple marginalized social positions. The researchers, therefore, suggest bias-based bullying is an important point for intervention and mitigation of mental health disparities, particularly among LGBTQ+ adolescents.

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