In partnership with the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD), the academic team for Thriving on Campus is conducting a national study to understand the experiences, perceptions, wellbeing, and academic engagement of LGBTQ+ postsecondary students throughout the country.

Check out the CCGSD’s announcement about the study:
Creating Safer Spaces for LGBTQI2+ University Students

What we are doing

For this study, we are analyzing Canadian data from the 2016 National College Health Assessment (NCHA), a robust survey conducted with postsecondary students in the United States and Canada. Over 40,000 postsecondary students from 41 Canadian universities and colleges participated in the survey in 2016, which was the first year the NCHA survey was administered on Canadian campuses. Approximately 15% of the students who participated in the survey identified as LGBTQ+, with 2.5% identifying as belonging to the broad trans community (e.g., transgender, non-binary, genderqueer).

Our research questions

Because of the number of students who completed the survey and the inclusion of both LGBTQ+ and cisgender heterosexual (i.e., non-LGBTQ+) students, the survey data provide us with the opportunity to explore several critical research questions, such as:

  • What differences exist between LGBTQ+ students and cisgender heterosexual students in terms of mental health, academic engagement, experiences of victimization, and perceptions of safety? How might students’ experiences and perceptions of safety explain these differences?
  • Among LGBTQ+ students, what differences exist between subgroups? For example, are there differences in students’ mental health between trans students and cisgender LGBQ students? How might students’ experiences and perceptions of safety explain the differences?
  • How do LGBTQ+ students’ other identities, specifically race/ethnicity and disability status, relate to their mental health and academic engagement?  

Why this study is important

The results are needed to inform postsecondary education policies and programs affecting LGBTQ+ students—a population about which little is known in Canada, especially in terms of knowledge from large-scale national studies.

How we are sharing the results

Sharing the findings with policymakers and service providers and helping them to integrate the results into policy and program development is core to the study. Below are some of the activities we have engaged in to mobilize the findings, thus far.

January 2019: CCGSD’s 2019 LGBTQ2S+ Service Providers’ Network Summit

  • Presented key findings through a keynote address and a factsheet.
  • Facilitated roundtable discussions with network members to identify policy and service priorities.

May 2019: The House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, Government of Canada

February 2020: Canadian University Queer Services Conference

  • Presented key findings
  • Facilitated roundtable discussions with attendees, including students, to identify policy and service priorities

Academic Presentations

  • Coulombe, S., Woodford, M. R., & Schwabe, N. (2020, January). Exploring the mental health disparities faced by LGBT+ students in Canada: A Multilevel structural equation modeling approach. Paper presented at the 2020 Annual Conference of the Society for Social Work and Research, Washington, DC.


We use the acronym LGBTQ+ because the NCHA survey did not ask about identifying as Two-Spirit. In the Thriving on Campus study we use LGBTQ2S+ because we intentionally included Two-Spirit as options for gender identity and sexual identity.