Skip to main content

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

A Correction to this article was published on 04 June 2019

This article has been updated


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Change history

  • 04 June 2019

    The following correction should be noted to the caption of Fig. 1 in this article.


Download references


The authors would like to acknowledge the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for their role in developing the YRBS.


This study was supported by the following grants from the National Institutes of Health: R01 AA024409 (PI: Phillips), K01 DA039804 (PI: Philbin), K08 DA037825 (PI: Birkett), K08 DA045575 (PI: Feinstein).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gregory Phillips II.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Phillips, G., Beach, L.B., Turner, B. et al. Sexual Identity and Behavior Among U.S. High School Students, 2005–2015. Arch Sex Behav 48, 1463–1479 (2019).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


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