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Religious faith linked to suicidal behavior in LGBQ adults, says study

Your religious faith can kill you, according to a study that found that – although religiosity, in general, is tied to reduced suicide risk – the opposite may be true for some young lesbian, gay and questioning people.

Religion can kill you?

This is apparently so, according to a study that found that – although religiosity, in general, is tied to reduced suicide risk – the opposite may be true for some young lesbian, gay and questioning (LGBQ) people.

In an article that first appeared in Deccan Chronicle, a study team analyzed survey data from the 2011 University of Texas at Austin’s Research Consortium on 21,247 college-enrolled 18- to 30-year-olds, including 2.3% who reported being lesbian or gay, 3.3% who identified as bisexual and 1.1% who were questioning their sexuality. It was found that “greater religious feeling and engagement was tied to increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions for participants who identified as LGBQ.”

The participants rated the importance of religion in their lives on a 1 to 5 scale, from “not important” to “very important.” Between 21% and 28% of LGBQ participants rated the importance of religion to them at a 4 or 5, compared with 39% of heterosexuals.

Those who are still questioning their SOGIE reported having the highest rate of suicidal thoughts at 16.4% versus 3.7% of heterosexuals, 6.5% of lesbian/gay individuals and 11.4% of bisexuals. Lifetime suicide attempts were reported by 20% of bisexual youth, 17% of questioning youth, 14% of gay or lesbian youth and 5% of heterosexuals.

This is contrary to long-held beliefs (and study results) that suggested that belonging to a religious faith reduces risky behavior (particularly in young people), including substance use and unsafe sex. Suffice it to say, this study (that appeared in in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine) suggests that the impact of religion may be different for LGBQ individuals.

Other highlights from this study include:

  • Religiosity was protective against thoughts of suicide and suicidal attempts in heterosexual youth.
  • Lesbians and gays who reported that religion was important to them were 38% more likely to have had recent suicidal thoughts.
  • For lesbians, religion was associated with a 52% increased likelihood of suicidal thinking.
  • Questioning individuals were almost three times as likely to have attempted suicide recently if they reported that religion was very important to them.
  • Being homosexual significantly increase the likelihood of recent suicide attempts in people who said that religion was very important to them.
  • For bisexual youth, the importance of religion was not associated with suicidal behavior.

With this, the researchers suggested that faith-based partners in public health suicide prevention and intervention services “should be willing and equipped to assist all people who seek their services, regardless of sexual orientation.”

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