Reuters: One in four gay, lesbian, bisexual teens attempt to end their lives
Studies have linked high levels of stress due to social stigma, marginalization, discrimination and experiences of bullying with a wide range of risky health behaviors, including suicidal behaviors.
By Lisa Rapaport
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning (LGBQ) teens are more than three times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers, a U.S. study suggests.
In a national survey of almost 16,000 youth, about 25 percent of LBGQ teens said they had attempted suicide at least once in the previous year, compared with roughly 6 percent of heterosexual teens, researchers report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Sexual minority youth were also more than twice as likely to contemplate suicide or plan a suicide attempt even if they didn’t go through with it, the study also found.
“LGBQ teens face staggeringly high suicide risks,” said senior study author John Ayers, a researcher at San Diego State University.
“We must recognize LGBQ teen suicide is a national public health crisis and bring extraordinary resources to bear to address the crisis,” Ayers said by email.
The increased suicide risk for sexual minority teens held true when researchers looked at females and males separately.
Lesbians were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual young women, and the odds were more than tripled for bisexuals.
Gay teens were more than four times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual males, while bisexuals had more than five times the risk.
The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how sexual orientation might influence suicide risk. Researchers also lacked data on gender identity or transgender youth, who may have an even higher risk of suicide than gay and bisexual teens.
Even so, the results add to the evidence suggesting that sexual minority teens have a higher risk of suicide than other youth, said Hongying Dai, a researcher at Children’s Mercy Kansas City who wasn’t involved in the study.
While the study didn’t address what might have driven teens to consider or attempt suicide, it’s possible sexual minority teens might have been at increased risk because they experienced verbal harassment, physical bullying or felt unsafe at school, Dai said by email.
“Studies have linked high levels of stress due to social stigma, marginalization, discrimination and experiences of bullying with a wide range of risky health behaviors, including suicidal behaviors,” Dai said.
Read the full article via Reuters.
Learn about the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Children's Mercy.