Articles Relating to Suicide by GLB Youth

5 population-based studies, and 4 studies on uniquely GLB youth samples.

Papers summarized below represent only studies done since 1990 that report on suicide of GLB youth (not adults). These papers represent studies, as opposed to reviews or commentaries on GLB-youth suicide. Only one of the studies that meet these criteria show no difference in suicide rates between GLB and non-GLB youth. This study was done post-mortem on youth who had committed suicide, and was the study presented to a national committee on GLB-youth suicide to the NIMH and APA committees, however there are fundamental problems with the methodology that call into question its validity in obtaining an accurate assessment of the sexual-orientation of the youth involved in the study. Assessment of sexual-orientation was done by interviews of parents, teachers and friends, which may represent a faulty methdology, since many GLB-youth do not self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual until later in their adolescent years, and many more do not admit publicly their sexual-minority status until much later in their lives.

A more comprehensive treatment of these and related issues can be found on an essay I wrote as part of a graduate research project on the Health Risks of Gay Teens.

Summary statistics

The GLB-sample populations present the following statistics:

Author, Year N GLB-youth reporting suicide attempts
Hershberger, 1997 194 40% males, 43% females
Jordan, 1997 34 35.3%
Proctor, 1994 221 40.3%
Rotheram, 1994 138 39%

The population-based populations present the following statistics:

Author, Year N GLB-youth reporting suicide attempts non-GLB-youth reporting suicide attempts
Faulkner, 1998 3054 41.7% (represents only sexually-active youth) 28.6% (represents only sexually-active youth)
Fergusson, 1999100732.1%7.1%
Garofalo, 1998 4159 35.3% 9.9%
Remafedi, 1998 36,254 28.1% male, 20.5% female 4.2% male, 14.5% female
Schaffer, 1995 120 2.5% of the 120 youth were allegedly GLB 97.% of the 120 youth were allegedly non-GLB

DuRant, Robert; Krowchuk, Daniel; Sinal, Sara. Victimization, use of violence, and drug use at school among male adolescents who engage in same-sex sexual behavior. Journal of Pediatrics 133(1): 113-118, 1998.

Sample consisted of 60.8% of all 8th-12th graders in Vermont, N=21,297 students, as part of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey by the CDC. Of sexually-active male students, 8.7% reported having a same-sex experience, whereas 4.9% of sexually-active female students reported same-sex experiences. DuRant didn't give raw numbers, but merely gave Spearman correlation coefficients (r), and multiple regression analysis as a factor of the number of male sexual partners. He states the following: "Male students with multiple male sexual partners were significantly more likely to be victims of threatened with physical violence, suffer property victimization at school, and be absent from school because of fear," and "Substance abuse on school property and reported suicide attempts were also more commonly observed among male students with multiple same-sex sexual partners."

Faulkner,-Anne-H. Cranston,-Kevin. Correlates of same-sex sexual behavior in a random sample of Massachusetts high school students. American-Journal-of-Public-Health 88 (2): 262-66,1998.

Represents N=3054 students from a random sample of 9th-12th graders from Massachusetts, as part of the 1993 YRBS. Of sexually active students, 6.4% reported same-sex contact. "Same-sex students were more than three times as likely to report not going to school because they felt unsafe and more than twice as likely to report having been threatened or injured with a weapon at school." "In comparison with other-sex students, same-sex students were nearly 50% more likely to report having seriously considered suicide in the previous 12 months. Twice as many same-sex students reported having attempted suicide at least once in the past year, and eight times as many reported having attempted suicide four or more times." The data, given in Table 4, shows that 28.6% of heterosexual, sexually-active students (n=1563) had seriously considered suicide, whereas 41.7% of homosexual, sexually-active students (n=105) had seriously committed suicide. Similarly, 2% of sexually-active heterosexual students had attempted suicide 4+ times, whereas 16.1% of sexually-active homosexual students had attempted suicide 4+ times. Of heterosexual, sexually-active students, 4.7% of them required medical attention for their suicide attempts, whereas 20.0% of the sexually-active homosexual students had required medical attention for suicide attempts.

Fergusson, David, et al. "Is Sexual Orientation Related to Mental Health Problems and Suicidality in Young People?" Archives of General Psychiatry 56 (10): 876-880, 1999.

Sample represents a 21-year longitudinal study of 1007 infants born in Christchurch, New Zealand. When they reached 21 years old, they were questioned about their sexual orientation, of which 2% identified themselves as GLB. The data indicates that the 67.9% of the GLB youth had engaged in suicidal ideation, whereas only 28.0% of the heterosexual youth had engaged in suidical ideation. Further, the data shows that 32.1% of the GLB youth had attempted suicide and only 7.1% of the heterosexual youth had attempted suicide.

Garofalo, Robert. Wolf, Cameron. The Association Between Health Risk Behaviors and Sexual Orientation Among a School-based Sample of Adolescents. Pediatrics; v101 n5 p895-902,1998.

Sample represents N=4159 randomly selected 9th-12th graders from Massachusetts schools, from the 1995 YRBS. Students who self-identified as GLB represent 2.5% of this population. Of the GLB population 35.3 report suidice attempts in the previous 12 months, and only 9.9% of non-GLB students report suicide attempts. In the previous 30 days, 25.1% of GLB students report having been threatened with a weapon at school, whereas 7.1% of non-GLB students report having been threatened with a weapon at school. Of GLB students, 25.3% report missing school because of fear, whereas 5.1% of non-GLB students report missing school because of fear.

Hershberger,-Scott-L. Pilkington,-Neil-W. Predictors of suicide attempts among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth. Journal-of-Adolescent-Research 12 (4): 477-97,1997.

Represents N=194 responses from 15-21 yeas old, received from organized youth groups in metropolitan GLB community centers. Of these, 73% were male, and 66% were white. From this sample, 40% of the males report at least one suicide attempt, and 43% of females report a suicide attempt.

Jordan,-Karen-M. Vaughan,-Jill-S. Woodworth,-Katharine-J.I Will Survive: Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youths' Experience of High School.Journal-of-Gay-and-Lesbian-Social-Services; 7, 4, 17-33,1997.

Represents N=34 responses from local youth groups, 58.8% male, 50% white, 35% hispanic, who self-identified as GLB. Of these, 47.1% report having considered suicide, and 35.3% report having attempted suicide.

Proctor,-Curtis-D. Groze,-Victor-K. Risk factors for suicide among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths. Social-Work 39 (5): 504-13,1994.

Represents N=221 participants who self-identified as GLB, under 21 years old, with a mean of 18.5 years old, 71.9% male, from 56 GLB youth groups around the US and Canada. Of these, 40.3% report having attempted suicide.

Remafedi,-Gary; French,-Simone . The relationship between suicide risk and sexual orientation: Results of a population-based study. American-Journal-of-Public-Health 88 (1): 57-60,1998.

Represents N=36,254 students from the 1987 Adolescent Health Survey from Minnesota public schools (10% of the student body of 7th-12th graders). Of these, 275 self-identify as bisexual, and 119 self-identify as mostly homosexual. These were compared to a demographically-matched sample of 336 students who self-report of heterosexuals. Of the GLB students, 31.2% of males report suicidal ideation, and 28.1% report suicide attempts. Of heterosexual students, 20.1% males report suicidal ideation and 4.2% report suicide attempts. Of GLB students, 36.4% of females report suicidal ideation and 20.5% report suicide attempts. Of heterosexual students, 34.3% of females report suicidal ideation and 14.5% report suicide attempts.

Rotheram-Borus,-Mary-J. And-Others. Suicidal Behavior and Gay-Related Stress among Gay and Bisexual Male Adolescents. Journal-of-Adolescent-Research; v9 n4 p498-508 Oct ,1994.

Represents N=138 between 14-19 years old from the Hetrick-Martin Institute in NYC, a nonresidential, community-based agency providing recreational and social services to lesbian and gay youths, recruited over a 2.5 year period. Of these, 51% are hispanic and 30% are black, with a mean age of 16.8 years old, and 91% self-identify as gay or bisexual. Of this sample, 39% report having attempted suicide, and of those who had attempted, 52.1% report having made more than one attempt.

Shaffer,-David; Fisher,-Prudence; Hicks. Sexual Orientation in Adolescents Who Commit Suicide.Suicide-and-Life-Threatening-Behavior; 25, supplement, 64-71,1995.

In a study of N=120 adolescents who had committed suicide, only 3 (2.5%) were apparently homosexual. Information about the sexual orientation of the dead adolescents were "usually obtained from 1) a parent or another adult member of the household in which the victim was living at the time of death; 2) either a sibling or friend from the victim's peer group nominated by the parent or caretaker; and 3) at least one school teacher (and, more usually, three) nominated by the parent/caretaker or by the school principal". The conclusion is that there is no significantly higher rate of suicide among homosexuals as compared to heterosexuals.

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