According to a new study led by researchers from the US National Institute of Mental Health, the risk of suicide among lesbian, gay and bisexual adults varies considerably based on the intersection between sexual identity and other aspects of identity, such as gender, age and ethnicity.
The study, which examined data from a nationally representative survey of adults in the United States, also showed that lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults are generally more likely to report suicide-related thoughts, plans, and attempts in the past 12 months compared to heterosexual adults .
National Survey on Drug Use and Health
Previous research has shown that, when examined as a group, adults who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual have higher rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts compared to heterosexual adults. However, few studies have investigated within-group variation in suicide risk among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults .
The research team hypothesized that suicide risk can vary considerably based on a person’s sexual identity, gender, age, or race / ethnicity. To test this hypothesis, the researchers analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), a nationally representative survey of American adults.
The researchers examined data from 2015, when the survey first introduced questions about sexual identity, through 2019. The resulting data set included a total of 19,954 participants, 14,693 of whom identified as lesbian, gay, or gay. bisexual .
After taking demographic factors into account, the researchers found that suicide risk was three to six times higher for lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults than for heterosexual adults in all age groups and race / ethnic category.
Among gay and bisexual men, between 12% and 17% had considered killing themselves in the past year, 5% had made a suicide plan, and around 2% had attempted suicide. Among lesbian / gay women and bisexual women, 11% to 20% had experienced suicidal thoughts, 7% had made a suicide plan, and around 3% had attempted suicide.
Among gay and bisexual men, the data showed no difference in suicide risk based on race / ethnicity. However, among lesbian / gay and bisexual women, the data indicated that black women had a lower risk of suicidal thoughts and plans compared to white women .
When the researchers looked at the specific intersection between minority sexual identity and race / ethnicity, they found that white and black women who identified as bisexual were more likely to report suicidal thoughts compared to white and black women who identified like lesbians or gays.