A new study just released in Pediatrics has uncovered that although lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) teens are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, the environment in which they live can make all the difference.
The timely study included a total of 31,852 11th grade students (1,413 lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals) in Oregon who had completed the Oregon Healthy Teens survey in 2006–2008. The researchers created a composite index of the social environment in 34 counties, including (1) the proportion of same-sex couples, (2) the proportion of registered Democrats, (3) the presence of gay-straight alliances in schools, and (4) school policies (nondiscrimination and anti-bullying) that specifically protected lesbian, gay, and bisexual students.
The study included questions about sexuality, depression, alcohol use, and relationships with peers and family. Suicide attempts were more common in LGB teens who reported being depressed and binge drinking, as well as those who had been victimized by their peers or physically abused by an adult.
In conclusion, the study found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were significantly more likely to attempt suicide in the previous 12 months, compared with heterosexuals (21.5% vs. 4.2%). Among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, the risk of attempting suicide was 20% greater in unsupportive environments compared to supportive environments. A more supportive social environment was significantly associated with fewer suicide attempts and multiple risk factors for suicide attempts, including depressive symptoms, binge drinking, peer victimization, and physical abuse by an adult.
Read more of the study results here.