Suicide/Suicidal Behavior

Some studies have found that nonheterosexual adults are more likely than heterosexual adults to report past suicidal ideation and attempts. Cochran and Mays (2000a), using data from a national probability sample of 3,503 participants (NHANES III), found that men who reported same-sex sexual behavior showed greater lifetime prevalence rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts than men who reported exclusively different-sex sexual behavior, even after adjustment for possible demographic confounding.

Using data from the National Comorbidity Survey in a study previously described, Gilman and colleagues (2001) observed differences in suicide symptoms between men and women participants with same-sex (n = 125) and different-sex (n = 4,785) sexual partners. They found no significant differences in the 12-month prevalence of suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts between those with same-sex and different-sex partners overall. Among women, however, they found a higher prevalence of suicidal thoughts and plans in the any same-sex partner group than in the other-sex partner group, and among men, a higher prevalence of suicidal plans and attempts in the any same-sex partner group than in the other-sex partner group. Also, the lifetime risk of suicidal thoughts was significantly greater for both men and women in the same-sex partner group than in the different-sex partner group. Overall, the authors note that the effects of having same-sex versus different-sex partners appear to be stronger for women than for men.

Other studies have demonstrated that suicidal ideation and behavior vary by both sexual orientation and gender. Mathy and colleagues (2003) compared suicidal intent, mental health difficulties, and mental health treatment among bisexual and transgender individuals. They found that, relative to bisexual males (n = 1,457), bisexual females (n = 792) and transgender individuals (n = 73) had a higher prevalence of all three variables (Mathy et al., 2003). In a study of 1,304 women conducted at 33 health care sites across the United States, Koh and Ross (2006) found that differences in rates of suicidal ideation and attempts varied among bisexual women (n = 143), lesbians (n = 524), and heterosexual women (n = 637) and were also correlated with disclosure of sexual orientation. Bisexual women who had disclosed their sexual orientation to a majority of friends, family, and coworkers were twice as likely to have reported suicidal ideation relative to heterosexual women. Among sexual minorities who had not disclosed their sexual orientation to a majority of friends, family, and coworkers, lesbians were 90 percent more likely to have ever made a suicide attempt, and bisexual women were three times more likely than heterosexual women to have done so (Koh and Ross, 2006).

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