Conservative Attitudes Increase Suicide Risk For Gay And Straight Teens

A study published today in Pediatrics reveals that lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens are more likely to attempt suicide when they live in a community that is less supportive of their identities. While LGB youth already attempt suicide at higher rates than their heterosexual peers, the rates are comparatively higher when there is less visibility of same-sex couples, a higher proportion of registered Republicans, and fewer school gay-straight alliances and nondiscrimination policies:

Gay, lesbian and bisexual teens living in counties with the lowest social index scores were 20 percent more likely to have attempted suicide than gays in counties with the highest index scores. Overall, about 25 percent of gay teens in low-scoring counties had attempted suicide, versus 20 percent of gay teens in high-scoring counties.

Strikingly, the study also found that heterosexual youth were more likely (9%) to attempt suicide in the less supportive environment, demonstrating the importance of LGBT education for all young people. Moreover, the data demonstrate that it is environmental factors that contribute to the increased rates, not the individuals’ actual identities.

While novel in its approach, this study correlates with previous studies about the impact of negative environments. A 2009 study by the Family Acceptance Project showed that LGB young adults were 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide if they were rejected by their family. A 2004 National Research Council study found that rates of suicide completion are much higher in rural areas.