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J Adolesc Health. 2006 Nov;39(5):662-8. Epub 2006 Jul 10.

Suicidality among gay, lesbian and bisexual youth: the role of protective factors.

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1
Healthy Youth Development Prevention Research Center, Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. eisen012@umn.edu

Abstract

PURPOSE:

Many reports have indicated that gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) youth are particularly vulnerable to poor outcomes, including suicide. Certain protective factors are likely to reduce this risk. The present study examines four protective factors (family connectedness, teacher caring, other adult caring, and school safety) and their association with suicidal ideation and attempts among adolescents with same-gender experience.

METHODS:

Data come from the 2004 Minnesota Student Survey of 9th and 12th grade students; 21,927 sexually active youth were grouped according to the gender of their sex partner(s) into GLB and non-GLB groups. Four protective factors and suicidal ideation and attempts were compared across groups. Logistic regression was used to examine the influence of protective factors on suicide, and predicted probabilities of suicidal ideation and attempts were estimated using general linear modeling.

RESULTS:

There were 2,255 respondents who reported same-gender experience. Over half of GLB students had thought about suicide and 37.4% reported a suicide attempt. GLB youth reported significantly lower levels of each protective factor than their non-GLB peers. Family connectedness, adult caring, and school safety were significantly protective against suicidal ideation and attempts. Risk associated with a GLB sexual orientation is largely mediated through protective factors.

CONCLUSIONS:

Sexual orientation alone accounts for only a small portion of variability in suicidal ideation and attempts. If protective factors were enhanced among GLB youth, suicide in this population is expected to be considerably lower. Protective factors examined here are amenable to change and should be targeted in interventions.

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