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Study: Suicide Attempts Among LGBQ Teens 4 Times That of Straight Peers

A new study finds the rate of attempted suicide among high school students identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning (LGBQ) is nearly four times that of their straight peers.

Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers explain that although the percentage of suicide attempts dropped from prior years, the findings reveal large disparities in suicide attempts even as the percent of students identifying as LGBQ increased.

“In 2017, more than 20 percent of LGBQ teens reported attempting suicide in the past year,” said study lead author Dr. Julia Raifman, assistant professor of health law, policy and management at BUSPH.

The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.

“It’s critical that health and educational institutions have policies and programs in place to protect and improve LGBQ health, such as medical school curricula and high school health curricula that are inclusive of sexual minority health,” Raifman said.

The study also found that the proportion of high school students who identified as LGBQ doubled from 2009 to 2017.

Raifman said LGBQ rights also play a particularly important role in shaping mental health. In a 2017 study, Raifman found that states’ legalization of same-sex marriage came with a 7 percent decrease in all high school student suicide attempts.

She noted that other research (including a 2018 study she led) has shown that anti-LGBQ policies harm the mental health of LGBQ adults and teens.

“Our new paper indicates that an increasing number of teenagers are identifying as LGBQ, and will be affected by anti-LGBQ policies that may elevate these already very high rates of suicide attempts” she said.

In this study, the researchers used Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance Survey (YRBSS) data from the only six states that collected sexual orientation data continuously between 2009 and 2017: Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, North Dakota, and Rhode Island. Of these states, only Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, and Rhode Island collected data on the sex of sexually active students’ partners, and distinguished between consensual sexual contact and sexual assault.

This data sample provided researchers with sexual orientation information for 110,243 high school students, and data on the consensual sexual behavior of 25,994 of these students. (None of the states consistently collected data on transgender students.)

The researchers found that the proportion of high schoolers identifying as LGBQ doubled from 7.3% in 2009 to 14.3% in 2017, with similar trends for identifying as gay/lesbian (1.4% to 2.8%), bisexual (3.9% to 7.2%), and unsure/questioning (2.0% to 4.3%).

The proportion of sexually active high schoolers who reported consensual, same-sex sexual contact increased from 7.7% to 13.1%.

In both 2009 and 2017, about 6% of heterosexual high schoolers reported attempting suicide in the previous 12 months, while the rate for LGBQ teens decreased from 26.7% in 2009 to 20.1% in 2017.

Adjusting for other student characteristics, the researchers found the LGBQ suicide attempt rate went from 5.2 to 3.8 times the heterosexual rate.

They did not find significant changes in the rate of suicide attempts among high schoolers who had had same-sex or only heterosexual sexual contact, although the rate remained about twice as high for those reporting any same-sex sexual contact.

Source: Boston University School of Medicine/EurekAlert

Study: Suicide Attempts Among LGBQ Teens 4 Times That of Straight Peers

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2020). Study: Suicide Attempts Among LGBQ Teens 4 Times That of Straight Peers. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 22, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 12 Feb 2020 (Originally: 12 Feb 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 12 Feb 2020
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