Marion Doull, Ryan J. Watson, Annie Smith, Yuko Homma, Elizabeth Saewyc, Are we leveling the playing field? Trends and disparities in sports participation among sexual minority youth in Canada, Journal of Sport and Health Science (2016), 1-9.

Sports participation and physical fitness are widely beneficial for young people, yet activity levels among young people are declining. Despite growing popular media attention on the participation of sexual minority (e.g., lesbian, gay, and bisexual) youth in sports and various campaigns to improve the often homophobic climate of sports, there is limited evidence that sexual minority youth participate in sports. Our aim was to provide a current portrait of sports participation among 3 groups of sexual minority youth (e.g., lesbian, gay, and bisexual) in British Columbia, Canada, as well as to document population trends.

Pooled population-level data from British Columbia, Canada (n = 99,373) were used to examine trends and disparities in sports participation among sexual minority and heterosexual youth. Age-adjusted logistic regression models were used to examine changes in participation over time and disparities in participation over time (1998–2013).

We found an overall decline in sports participation and physical activity (PA) for all youth. Sexual minority students were less likely to participate in formal sports (with a coach) and informal sports (without a coach) compared with their heterosexual peers. The disparity in participating in informal sports between heterosexual and sexual minority youth has narrowed over time for some sexual orientation groups, whereas the disparity in participating in formal sports has widened over time in some cases.

This study provides a comprehensive examination of sports participation among sexual minority youth over the past 15 years. Despite changing societal attitudes and laudable efforts to reduce homophobia in sports, results suggest that there are continued barriers to participation for sexual minority youth. Further research is needed to understand the factors that limit sports participation for these youth and to inform program development. PA is critical to lifelong health and well-being, and thus continued efforts are needed to increase the sports participation of sexual minority youth in particular.

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