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LGB adults more likely to have had suicidal thoughts, plans, attempts

The intersection of multiple social identities may compound suicide risk for some LGB individuals.

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Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults are more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to have had suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts; with the intersection of multiple social identities compounding suicide risk for some LGB individuals.

This is according to a study – “Suicidality Among Sexual Minority Adults: Gender, Age, and Race/Ethnicity Differences” by Rajeev Ramchand, PhD; Megan S. Schuler, PhD, MS; Michael Schoenbaum, PhD; Lisa Colpe, PhD; and Lynsay Ayer, PhD – that appeared in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“(The) findings should be viewed in light of minority stress theory and intersectionality theory as well as unique contextual risk factors experienced by LGB individuals,” the researchers stated.

Minority stress theory suggests that the stigma, prejudice, and discrimination experienced by LGB individuals may increase the risk for mental health problems, in turn increasing suicide risk. Meanwhile, intersectional theory “highlights that discrimination may manifest in complex ways for those with multiple marginalized identities”.

For this study, the researchers examined past-year suicide thoughts, plans, and attempts among adult respondents to the 2015–2019 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (pooled N=191,954).

Among the findings were:

  • suicide risk was three to six times greater for LGB adults than for heterosexual adults across every age group and race/ethnicity category
  • among gay and bisexual men, 12% to 17% thought about taking their lives in the past year, 5% made a suicide plan, and about 2% made a suicide attempt
  • among lesbian or gay women and bisexual women, 11% to 20% experienced thoughts of suicide, 7% made a suicide plan, and about 3% made a suicide attempt
  • White and Black women who identified as bisexual were more likely to report suicidal thoughts relative to lesbian or gay White and Black women
  • suicidal thoughts were relatively higher among bisexual women in the 35-64 group compared with lesbian or gay women in the same age group

For the researchers, the findings “stress the need for suicide prevention resources across the life course. This may entail creating new programs for adults, such as universal screening in emergency departments, or primary care, possibly with a focus on LGB competency (e.g., displaying physical symbols signifying comfort with and acceptance of LGB patients), and screening for health conditions that disproportionately affect LGB individuals.”

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