Lead researcher Joseph Robinson agreed that these findings help validate what people have believed to be true.
"This suggests that chances are, things will get better," said Robinson, an assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "We've been giving kids a message of hope, and this is showing that's not a false hope."
But the continuing disparity between gay and heterosexual young men is concerning, Robinson said. "For straight males, bullying gets better a lot quicker -- which is great news for them. But we'd like to see the same improvement for gay and bisexual males."
The picture may be worse for young men because society is generally less accepting of men being gay or bisexual, Robinson noted. "Men, in particular, just can't deviate from gender norms," he said. "That's what society expects."
The findings are based on a national sample of 4,135 school kids in England who were interviewed annually over seven years. Of these, 187 (almost 5 percent) identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Besides asking about bullying, the study also looked at kids' "emotional distress" levels -- how often they felt depressed, anxious or unhappy.
In general, gay and bisexual young people had more distress, and bullying in school appeared to explain about half of the disparity. Both Robinson and Mustanski said that suggests that anti-bullying efforts could make a big difference in young people's mental health.
Right now, some schools have anti-bullying policies that specifically ban bullying based on sexual orientation. Some have gay-straight student alliances, which aim to fight homophobia. But not all schools have programs like that.
Parents can go a long way in helping, Robinson said. "Hopefully, parents are being supportive and have an open line of communication with their kids." But, he added, stopping bullies, and their effects, sh
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