Teens who are gay or lesbian but engage in heterosexual sex are at higher risk of a suicide attempt, new research suggests.
“These findings are a wakeup call,” said lead investigator Francis Annor of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
“We need to learn more about why teens who engage in sexual activity that is different than their sexual orientation are more likely to think about or attempt suicide,” Annor added.
Researchers looked at responses from 6,800 U.S. students in grades 9 through 12 who’d become sexually active, according to a CDC survey.
The investigators found that 4 percent experienced “sexual orientation discordance” — sexual contact that’s contrary to a person’s sexual orientation.
Students who reported discordance were 70 percent more likely to have had suicidal ideas or to have made suicide attempts than other students, the study authors said.
The risk was higher among discordant students who were bullied, who felt forced into sex, or who identified as gay/lesbian, the findings showed.
Rates of discordance were 32 percent among gay/lesbian students, the research team noted, but only about 3 percent for heterosexual students.
The results were published this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
A better understanding of the stress that leads to suicidal thoughts or attempts among these young people can help communities identify and implement tailored approaches to help them, Annor said in a journal news release.
In 2016, more than 1,900 U.S. children aged 12 to 18 died by suicide, making it the second leading cause of death in that age group, the researchers said.
“This study highlights another potential risk factor for youth suicide,” Annor said. “The needs of all youth should be considered when developing and implementing suicide prevention programs.”
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on teen suicide.
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