Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Gay-straight alliances cut binge drinking, research suggests

Reduces 'negative coping' behaviours

  • Print
‘GSAs obviously affect inclusion — they definitely affect the safety and inclusion for everybody’ — Manitoba Teachers’ Society president Paul Olson

FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

‘GSAs obviously affect inclusion — they definitely affect the safety and inclusion for everybody’ — Manitoba Teachers’ Society president Paul Olson

Having a gay-straight alliance in a high school has an unexpected bonus benefit -- student binge drinking drops significantly, a British Columbia study suggests.

That's because students both gay and straight who feel good about themselves and feel safe in their schools make fewer bad decisions about "negative coping."

"Kids who are bullied are much more likely to engage in binge drinking," University of British Columbia nursing professor Elizabeth Saewyc said recently from Vancouver. "That kind of bullying is distressing and has health impacts."

More than one in five B.C. high school students indulges in binge drinking on a regular basis, and among those kids, binge drinking dropped by 20 per cent if their school had a gay-straight alliance for at least three years, Saewyc said.

"That's a pretty respectable change," she said.

Published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the UBC study used data from the British Columbia Adolescent Health Survey to look at whether students' odds of recent substance use were lower in schools with established anti-homophobia policies and gay-straight alliances.

Saewyc said 87 out of about 300 B.C. high schools have a gay-straight alliance, and 17 of 57 school districts have specific anti-homophobia policies.

Gay and lesbian students aren't the only ones bullies target, she said -- which is consistent with the national research conducted by University of Winnipeg education professor Catherine Taylor. Many straight students mistakenly believed to be gay are also victims of homophobic bullying.

"We were measuring actual health outcomes," Saewyc said.

"That makes perfect sense -- that's just a common-sense thing," Manitoba Teachers' Society president Paul Olson said Friday. "GSAs obviously affect inclusion -- they definitely affect the safety and inclusion for everybody."

Education Minister Nancy Allan's anti-bullying Bill 18 includes a provision that any student in a public school or publicly funded private school who asks to start a gay-straight alliance must be accommodated.

Bill 18 is supposed to take effect when school starts next month. However, it's among major legislation whose passage is being held up by the opposition Progressive Conservatives' ongoing delaying tactics in the legislature protesting a one-percentage-point increase in provincial sales tax.

The UBC researchers' findings play out every day at the Rainbow Resource Centre, said executive director Chad Smith.

"Kids that come to our youth group see changes in self-esteem, self-image," said Smith, who helps students organize gay-straight alliances throughout Manitoba. "We see huge changes in kids' perceptions of themselves.

"When they're feeling better about themselves, they're making better decisions. Negative coping decreases," Smith said.

"That's a good term, negative coping," said Olson, who agreed that students who feel good about themselves and their schools are far less likely to try to drink away their unhappiness.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Join the conversation in the comments below:
Do you think this study will change opinions of allowing gay-straight alliances in Manitoba? schools?

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 19, 2013 B3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Preview of Small Things at PTE Mainstage

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • July 1, 2012 - 120701  -   Canada Day fireworks at The Forks from the Norwood Bridge Sunday, July 1, 2012.    John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press
  • Susan and Gary Harrisonwalk their dog Emma on a peaceful foggy morning in Assiniboine Park – Standup photo– November 27, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Are you still on the Bombers' and Jets' bandwagons?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google