General News

LGBTQ+ youth from lower income families more likely to struggle with addiction

Rachel Badham March 26, 2021

A report from LGBTQ+ charity Just Like Us has found queer secondary school pupils who receive free school meals, which are given to children from lower income families, are more likely to struggle with dependence on alcohol or substances. The survey, which interviewed 3,000 students, found 6% of all secondary school pupils who receive free meals reported experiencing addiction, compared to only 3% of those in higher income families.

The addiction rates in LGBTQ+ students from low income families was even higher at 9% of all pupils in this category. Of all LGBTQ+ teens eligible for free school meals, 64% said they worried about their mental health on a daily basis, compared to 35% of non-LGBTQ+ pupils from lower income families. Three quarters of LGBTQ+ students receiving school meals said their mental health had worsened significantly during the past 12 months due to the pandemic, compared to 50% of non-LGBTQ+ students and those who were from higher income households.

Half of all students surveyed said they had not heard any LGBTQ+ positive messaging at school. In response to the findings, Just Like Us chief executive, Dominic Arnall, said: “It’s clear from our research that the impact of coronavirus and lockdowns have not fallen evenly…LGBTQ+ young people who are eligible for free school meals are having to cope with multiple challenges during the pandemic and we are really concerned for these vulnerable young people.”

Arnall said it is important for young people to feel “safe and welcome at school”, adding: “We know this is a very difficult time for everyone and it’s also important that the burden doesn’t fall on school staff who are already under immense pressure – that’s why Just Like Us is here to help and we have free educational resources available to support you.”