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J Adolesc Health. 2001 Jul;29(1):31-6.

Relationship of sexual orientation to substance use, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and other factors in a population of homeless adolescents.

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Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, Oregon 97403, USA.



To explore the relationship of sexual orientation and gender to four sets of factors: (a) family history, (b) incarceration, (c) substance use, and (d) depression and suicide, in a population of homeless adolescents.


A sample of homeless adolescents was recruited in Portland, Oregon and assessed using semi-structured interviews at baseline, three months and six months. A total of 532 youths (216 females and 316 males) provided data on sexual orientation and other variables. Heterosexual (n = 391) and non-heterosexual youths (n = 141) were compared on all sets of factors, primarily using logistic regressions.


44.9% of females identified as lesbian or bisexual, while only 13.9% of males identified as gay or bisexual. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and "unsure" (GLBU) youths were less likely to have been in foster care or arrested, but were more likely to have spent time in a locked mental health treatment facility. More than one-third of all participants reported use of injection drugs. GLBU youths were more likely to have recently used amphetamines and to have injected drugs, however, gay-bisexual males were less likely to have recently used marijuana. GLBU status was associated with recent measures of depression and suicidal ideation, but not with lifetime measures. Associations of sexual orientation with several lifetime measures were different than with prospective measures, demonstrating the limitations of using lifetime measures rather than recent or prospective measures.


This population of homeless adolescents appears to be higher in its high rate of injection drug use and the large proportion of females who identify as lesbian or bisexual than found in other studies. The high rates of depression and suicidal ideation, especially among GLBU youth, are of great concern.

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