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It Gets Better: Study finds it really does for gay teens

If you don't believe the It Gets Better video campaign, science is now backing up its optimistic message.

In a new study of about 4,000 young people spanning seven years, British researchers have found that bullying appears to be confined mostly to the high school years and drops significantly with age.

Fifty-seven per cent of lesbian or bisexual girls reported being bullied at age 13 or 14, while only 6 per cent experienced it at age 20 or 21, according to the abstract of the Pediatrics study. For boys, bullying declined from 52 per cent to 9 per cent over the same time period.

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Of course, this news is bittersweet, given the number of young people who, presumably not believing that their lot would improve, continue to take their own lives.

The study suggests that gay and lesbian kids are about twice as likely to experiencing bullying in high school to begin with.

And the picture is less rosy for boys and men: After high school, lesbian or bisexual girls were no more likely to be bullied than heterosexual girls, but gay or bisexual boys' likelihood of being bullied actually increased after high school compared to heterosexual boys, according to the abstract. They were four times more likely to be bullied than their straight peers.

Along the way, this adds up to "significantly higher levels of emotional distress" for LGB youth than their heterosexual counterparts.

Study co-author Ian Rivers, a psychologist and professor of human development at Brunel University in London, told the Associated Press that a "sea change" in cultural acceptance of gays and growing intolerance for bullying occurred during the study years and could partly explains the results.

"Bullying tends to decline with age regardless of sexual orientation and gender," and the study confirms that, co-author Joseph Robinson, a researcher and assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, told the AP.

"In absolute terms, this would suggest that yes, it gets better."

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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