STUDY: What Factors Besides Sexuality Contribute to LGBT Suicide Rates?

By Mitch Kellaway

Originally published on Advocate.com August 06 2014 4:00 PM ET

A recent study published by the American Journal of Public Health has added key innovations that help nuance a commonly stated finding about LGBT youth: that they are more likely than non-LGBT peers to attempt suicide.While the new study corroborates this finding, it also gathered more targeted information related to the degree of injury inflicted and the race of respondents, reports the University of California Los Angeles' William Institute.

Gathering pencil-and-paper survey answers from over 73,000 teens, ages 13-18, from across the U.S., Wendy B. Bostwick and her team of researchers compared data from the 6,245 self-identified LGBT respondents against the rest of the group.

While overall the researchers found LGBT youth over three times more likely to have attempted suicide in the previous year (22 percent compared to six percent of non-LGBT teens), the statistic jumped strikingly higher when researchers considered the seriousness of the suicide attempt, as determined by the resultant injury and required medical treatments. LGBT youth were four times as likely than their non-LGBT peers to have made a seriously injurious or life-threatening suicide attempt (eight percent of LGBT teens versus two percent of those who are not LGBT-identified).

Moreover, these results varied significantly by race. Pointing out the importance of gathering data along several identifiers instead of "lump[ing] LGBT youth of color into one category," LGBT media watchdog group GLAAD explains that "the researchers considered the significance of intersectionality, or having multiple minority identities that operate together."

Compared to white LGBT youth, Latino and Native American/Pacific Islander LGBT youth were more likely to attempt suicide. Particularly striking was a revelation that Latina LGBT girls had a significantly higher prevalence of suicide attempts than youth of any other race; Latino LGBT boys reported feeling sad twice as often as boys of other racial categories.

On the flip side, Black and Asian-American LGBT youth fared better on several outcomes, including suicidal ideation and planning, than their white LGBT counterparts.

"Moving forward," concluded Bostwick, "it will be important for researchers to continue to take into account the unique cultural contexts and backgrounds of LGBT youth to see which factors in the home, school, or cultural environment are protecting certain groups such as Black and Asian-American youth, and leaving Latino youth at greater risk."

Contributor: 
Mitch Kellaway