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Am J Psychiatry. 2003 Mar;160(3):541-6.

Sexual orientation and self-harm in men and women.

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Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago Medical School, Dunedin, New Zealand.



Recent studies of homosexual people have found higher rates of nonfatal suicidal behavior than among heterosexuals. The purpose of this study was to determine associations between self-harm and sexual orientation for men and women separately, defining sexual orientation by sexual attraction rather than by behavior.


In a birth cohort of 1,019 New Zealand young adults eligible to be interviewed at age 26 years, 946 participated in assessments of both sexual attraction and self-harm.


Both women and men who had experienced same-sex attraction had higher risks of self-harm. The odds ratios for suicidal ideation in the past year were 3.1 for men and 2.9 for women. Odds ratios for ever having deliberately self-harmed were 5.5 for men and 1.9 for women. Men with same-sex attraction were also significantly more likely to report having attempted suicide. In both sexes, a greater degree of same-sex attraction predicted increasing likelihood of self-harm, with over one-third of men and women with persistent major same-sex attraction reporting this. Men with even a minor degree of same-sex attraction had high rates of self-harm and resulting physical injury. One-quarter of deliberate self-harm among men and one-sixth among women was potentially attributable to same-sex attraction.


This study provides evidence of a link between increasing degrees of same-sex attraction and self-harm in both men and women, with the possibility of some difference between the sexes that needs to be explored further.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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