Suicidality Among Sexual Minority Adults

Gender, Age, and Race/Ethnicity Differences

Published in: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 62, Issue 2, pages 193–202 (February 2022). doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2021.07.012

Posted on RAND.org on October 27, 2022

by Rajeev Ramchand, Megan S. Schuler, Michael Schoenbaum, Lisa Colpe, Lynsay Ayer

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Introduction

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals have elevated suicide risk, but there is little information available about how this risk may vary by gender, age, and race/ethnicity.

Methods

This study examined past-year suicide thoughts, plans, and attempts among adult respondents to the 2015–2019 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (pooled N=191,954). Logistic regression was used to examine the differences between lesbian, gay, and bisexual and heterosexual adults for each outcome, once by gender and age category and once by gender and race/ethnicity category, while controlling for core sociodemographic characteristics. Race/ethnicity and age differences were also estimated within sexual identity groups.

Results

Suicide thoughts, plans, and attempts were more common among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in almost every age and race/ethnicity category relative to that among corresponding heterosexual adults. In some age and race/ethnicity categories, bisexual women were more likely to report suicidal thoughts than lesbian/gay women. Each outcome decreased significantly across age groups among women of all sexual identity groups and heterosexual men; yet, this age effect was less pronounced among gay and bisexual men. Black women had significantly lower rates of suicidal thoughts and plans than White women in all sexual identity groups.

Conclusions

In light of consistently elevated rates of suicide thoughts and behaviors, lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults may expressly benefit from enhanced prevention, identification, and treatment of suicide risk. Additional research is needed to assess the associations between sexual identity and suicide mortality as well as to understand the heterogeneity in suicide risk among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, particularly by race/ethnicity.

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