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Study: Gay, lesbian teens at higher risk for suicide

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HealthDay News
Nearly 40 percent of teens in a recent study told researchers they had seriously considered suicide at some point in the previous year. Photo by Wokandapix/Pixabay
Nearly 40 percent of teens in a recent study told researchers they had seriously considered suicide at some point in the previous year. Photo by Wokandapix/Pixabay

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 20, 2017 -- Teens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning, or LGBQ, have a much higher risk for suicidal behavior than other teens, a new study has found.

Nearly 40 percent of LGBQ teens told researchers that they had seriously considered suicide in the past year. In addition, 35 percent had planned suicide and 25 percent had attempted suicide.

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By comparison, 15 percent of heterosexual teens had seriously considered suicide, 12 percent had planned it and 6 percent had attempted it, the researchers said.

"There have been some indications that LGBQ youth face increased suicide risks, yet many believed the jury was still out," study co-author John Ayers said in a news release from San Diego State University.

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"Our study yields a clear verdict: LGBQ youth face staggeringly high suicide risks," Ayers said. He is an associate research professor with the university's School of Public Health.

Data used in the study came from a federal government health survey of over 15,600 U.S. high school students.

The investigators determined that LGBQ teens were 2.45 times more likely to consider suicide, nearly 3.6 times more likely to plan a suicide and about 3.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than were heterosexual teens.

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To compare LGBQ and heterosexual teens, the researchers adjusted the data to account for differences in age, gender, race, academic grades and English proficiency.

Further analysis revealed that the risk for suicidal behavior was especially high among bisexual boys. Among them, 39 percent had seriously considered suicide, compared with 10 percent of heterosexual boys.

The study was published Dec. 19 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Every possible measure must be taken to help LGBQ youth, study co-author Dr. Davey Smith said in the news release. He's a clinician researcher at the university's School of Medicine and an advocate for sexual minority patients.

"Parents, teachers, caretakers, and advocates need to be vigilant," he said. "If youth show signs of suicidal risk, they should seek supportive help from professionals."

Smith also said that researchers must do more to tackle the potential causes of suicide among LGBQ youth, such as stigma.

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More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on teen suicide.

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