LGBTQ teens 5 times more likely to be bullied before suicide, study finds

Among teens who die by suicide, LGBTQ teens are up to five times more likely to have been bullied before their deaths. Photo by StockSnap/Pixabay
Among teens who die by suicide, LGBTQ teens are up to five times more likely to have been bullied before their deaths. Photo by StockSnap/Pixabay

May 26 (UPI) -- More than one in five LGBTQ teens who died by suicide suffered bullying because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a study published Tuesday by JAMA Pediatrics.

Overall, among teens who died by suicide, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people were nearly five times as likely to have experienced bullying than their non-LGBTQ peers, the authors found.


"Bullying is one factor that can contribute to suicide for all youth, but our study shows that it is a more common factor among LGBTQ youth who died by suicide," study co-author Kirsty Clark, a Yale University social and psychiatric epidemiologist, told UPI.

"This finding speaks to the need for bullying prevention efforts and supportive interventions to foster esteem and belonging for LGBTQ youth," Clark said.

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For their research, Clark and colleagues reviewed data from the National Violent Death Reporting System for a 15-year period covering 2003 to 2017. The reporting system is a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-managed database of all violent deaths from across the country, including homicides and suicides.

Each system record includes summaries of coroner, medical examiner or law enforcement reports describing suicide "antecedents" -- or precipitating events -- as based on information from the victim's family or friends,diaries, social media and text or email messages, as well as any suicide note.

The researchers classified these narratives based on LGBTQ status and bullying among 9,884 young people between 10 and 19 who died by suicide.

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Among 334 LGBTQ teens who died by suicide, 69, or 21 percent, were classified as having been bullied, compared to 421 of 9,550, or 4.4 percent, of their non-LGBTQ peers, the researchers found.

Younger LGBTQ teens who died by suicide were at greatest risk -- with 21 of 31, or 67.7 percent, of those between 10 and 13 years of age having experienced bullying.

Still, the great majority of bullying-associated suicides -- 86 percent -- were among non-LGBTQ youth.

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"We know that there is no simple solution to either reducing bullying or preventing suicide," Clark said.

"Anti-bullying policies that explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity are critical to reducing bullying and are associated with lower risk of suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth."

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