Central Michigan University associate professor of sociology Elbert Almazan's research indicates suicide risk is more prevalent among lesbian, gay and bisexual young adults.
"Sexual minorities are persons who have a same-sex romantic or sexual attraction; have experienced same-sex romantic or sexual behavior; or have a same-sex sexual identity such as lesbian, gay or bisexual," Almazan said. "Because sexual minorities are diverse in their attractions, behaviors and identities, we wanted to evaluate whether all sexual minorities could have a greater risk for suicide than heterosexuals."
In a study published in the journal Archives of Suicide Research, Almazan and fellow researchers investigated whether same-sex romantic attraction, same-sex sexual identity, lifetime same-sex sexual behavior and recent 12-month same-sex sexual behavior were associated with suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts in the past 12 months among men and women in the U.S. ages 24 to 34.
"Our findings show that for every one heterosexual young adult who experienced a suicidal thought or suicide attempt, there are two sexual minority young adults who experienced a suicidal thought or suicide attempt," Almazan said. "Results suggest that the higher suicide risk among sexual minority young adults shows that stigma in society continues to exist toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons, and that it can lead to negative health consequences."
Analyzing 2008-09 survey data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, the researchers discovered:
- Multiple sexual minority status measures had significant associations with increased suicidal thoughts among men and women;
- Multiple sexual minority status measures had significant associations with increased suicide attempts among women, but not among men; and,
- Diverse sexual minority populations are at increased risk for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
The researchers used multiple measures of sexual orientation to more accurately describe the diversity of sexual minority populations.
"Some sexual minorities may not self-identify themselves as lesbian, gay, or bisexual because they are struggling with the stigma associated with having a same-sex attraction," Almazan said. "Most previous research on suicide risk has relied on one dimension or measure of sexual orientation, but using only one measure includes some sexual minorities, but excludes others."
Almazan hopes the research builds awareness and guides health and social service professionals in helping sexual minority young people.
"As a society and as a culture, we need to find ways to eliminate prejudice and discrimination toward sexual minorities," he said. "For professionals who work with young people, asking confidential questions about sexual orientation can be informative in helping sexual minorities cope with issues of prejudice and discrimination."
Almazan's research team included Michael Roettger of Pennsylvania State University and Pauline Acosta of Cerritos College.