Health

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and questioning high schoolers are more likely to attempt suicide, make a plan or consider suicide than heterosexual students. That’s according to new research published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The research is based on the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The surveys were taken in public and private schools by 15,624 students. Eleven percent of students answered that they identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning (LGBQ). The survey shows that these students were 1.45 times more likely to seriously consider suicide than their heterosexual peers.

Researchers found the most striking difference after posing the question, “During the past 12 months, how many times did you actually attempt suicide?” Lesbian, bisexual, gay and questioning students were 2.37 times more likely to have attempted suicide than heterosexual students.

Theodore Caputi, a researcher from the University of Pennsylvania and lead author of the review, analyzed the data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control. Caputi said this was the first time the CDC had asked about sexual identity in research on suicide.

“What we’re detecting is that thousands of young people are still facing some really intense pressures that aren’t faced by their heterosexual peers,” said Caputi.

Stigma, Isolation, Discrimination

In every category, male bisexual students reported thinking or acting on suicide more often than their heterosexual peers or female LGBQ students. The data show bisexual males were almost 3.44 times more likely to consider suicide, 2.77 times more likely to plan suicide and 4.71 times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual students.

Caputi said some contributing factors could be stigma, isolation, family rejection and discrimination. All of these, he said, also play into the higher numbers for other sexual minority groups, but for some reason are much more acute for bisexual males. Caputi said for all groups, and in this group in particular, researchers should put more focus.

“Most urgently, the public health and youth services community should rally to provide these at-risk youth the services and support they need,” Caputi said.

Though the data were not broken down by state, advocacy group Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network in 2015 found lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens in Kentucky regularly heard homophobic comments, and had been verbally harassed because of sexual identity. That was based on a survey of 127 students in the commonwealth.

Caputi said there are two ways data could be improved in the future. First, he said more students should be surveyed. And second, he said the study did not not ask students questions about gender identity, which would include if they are transgender.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.