A new study suggests many gay and bisexual teenagers who are bullied at a younger age – are picked on less by the time they reach 19 – but they still remain disproportionately affected by the problem.

Researchers found that out of 4,135 teenagers aged between 13 and 14 in England, 57% of girls and 52% of boys, who identified as gay or bisexual, reported being bullied.

The figure for their straight counterparts was lower at 40%.

Lead researcher Joseph Robinson said the findings were encourging.

“This suggests that chances are, things will get better,” said Mr 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, Mr Robinson warned. “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.”

“Basically this is saying that it does get better, but it’s not good enough,” said Brian Mustanski, an associate professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Mr Mustanski, who was not involved in the study, added: “The work we’ve done shows that there is an association between bullying and suicide attempts and self-harming behavior in [gay and bisexual] youth.”