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Physical Inactivity and the Role of Bullying Among Gender Minority Youth Participating in the 2017 and 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Voss RV, Kuhns LM, Phillips II, G, Wang X, Wolf SF, Garofalo R, Reisner S, Beach LB.

Journal of Adolescent Health

Purpose: Evidence from small-scale studies suggests that transgender youth are less physically active than nontransgender youth, putting them at risk for worse health outcomes. This study examined the relationship between gender modality and participation in physical activity, physical education (PE), and sports teams in a multistate sample of high school youth and assessed whether bullying impacted this relationship.

Methods: Multiple regression was used to analyze data from the state and local Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 2017 to 2019 to examine the relationship between the gender modality and participation in physical activity, PE, and sports teams. The sample was stratified by sex and adjusted for demographics and in-school and online bullying victimization.

Results: Transgender participants who reported a male or female sex, respectively, reported lower odds of physical activity (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 0.46, p < .001; aOR 0.46, p < .001, respectively) but similar odds of PE participation. Female transgender students were less likely to participate in sports (aOR 0.55, p = .007); however, this relationship was not seen in adjusted models. Adjusting for demographics, male transgender students were significantly more likely to participate in sports (aOR 2.1, p = .002). Adjusting for bullying experiences did not significantly change these results.

Discussion: Transgender youth are less likely to participate in physical activity but participate similarly or more than cisgender peers in PE and sports. Factors other than bullying may limit physical activity among transgender youth, and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey may not capture experiences of trans-specific victimization. Increased inclusion and safety may help increase physical activity and amplify its benefits for transgender students.

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