Sexual Identity and Behavior Among U.S. High School Students, 2005–2015

Gregory Phillips*, Lauren B. Beach, Blair Turner, Brian A. Feinstein, Rachel Marro, Morgan M. Philbin, Paul Salamanca, Dylan Felt, Michelle Birkett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Sexual orientation is a multidimensional construct which is increasingly recognized as an important demographic characteristic in population health research. For this study, weighted Youth Risk Behavior Survey data were pooled across 47 jurisdictions biennially from 2005 to 2015, resulting in a national sample of 98 jurisdiction-years (344,815 students). Respondents were a median of 15.5 years, 49.9% male, and 48.8% White. Sexual identity and behavior trends from 2005 to 2015 were assessed with logistic regression analysis. Overall, 13.9% of females and 7.0% of males identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB), or not sure, while 9.1% of females and 4.2% of males indicated both same-and-different-sex behavior or same-sex behavior. In total, 17.0% of female and 8.5% of male youth reported non-heterosexual (LGB or not sure) sexual identity, same-sex sexual behavior, or both. LGB youth were approximately twice as likely as other youth to report lifetime sexual behavior. White and Asian youth were less likely to report non-heterosexual identity and/or have engaged in same-sex sexual behaviors than youth of other races/ethnicities. Prevalence of non-heterosexual identities increased over time for both sexes, but only female youth reported significantly more same-sex behavior over time. This is the first study to simultaneously assess adolescent sexual identity and behavior over time within a national dataset. These findings are critical for understanding the sexual health needs of adolescents and for informing sexual health policy and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1463-1479
Number of pages17
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 15 2019


  • Sexual behavior
  • Sexual identity
  • Sexual minority
  • Sexual orientation
  • Youth Risk Behavior Survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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