Gay and bisexual youth who live in areas with a higher proportion of same-sex couples and schools with gay-supportive policies are less likely to attempt suicide than those living in more conservative areas, according to a new study.
The study of 32,000 Oregon high school students, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens are five times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers.
But LGB youth who went to schools that have gay-straight alliances and antidiscrimination policies inclusive of sexual orientation were less at risk.
Mark Hatzenbuehler, a public health researcher at Columbia University and the study's author, told Reuters that the findings are "a call to action in providing a roadmap for how we can begin to reduce suicide in LGB youth."
Even heterosexual teens had greater rates of suicide attempts in more socially conservative areas, Hatzenbuehler reported.
Hatzenbuehler used social data on high school juniors from 34 counties in Oregon from 2006 to 2008. He then created a social score for each county, based on prevalence of gay and lesbian couples, the proportion of schools with GSAs and antibullying policies, and the percentage of registered Democrats.
LGB teens who lived in counties with lower social environment scores had a 22% higher rate of suicide attempts than those living in areas with higher scores.