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Intersectional identity affects suicide risk for lesbians, gays, bisexuals

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Intersectional identity affects suicide risk for lesbians, gays, bisexuals

A study has determined that intersectional identity could compound the suicide risk for some lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults.

Intersectional identity involves multiple social identities, i.e. intersection of sexual identity and other aspects of identity like gender, age, and race and ethnicity.

The study was conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which is part of the National Institute of Health.

The findings will be published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Higher suicide risk among lesbians, gays, and bisexuals

The study examined data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), a nationally representative survey of civilian adults in the US.

Previous research had indicated that as a group, those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults have higher rates of suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts as compared to straight adults.

New research indicates that– taking demographic factors into account– suicide risk was three to six times greater for lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults versus straight adults.

This cuts across every age group, as well as race and ethnicity categories.

For gays and bisexual men, 12 percent to 17 percent had thought about suicide in the past year, while five percent had made a suicide plan, and two percent had made a suicide attempt.

For lesbians and bisexual women, 11 percent to 20 percent had thought about suicide, seven percent had made a suicide plan, and about three percent had made a suicide attempt.

Intersectional identity among lesbians, gays, and bisexuals

Taking intersectional identities into account, data among gays and bisexual men showed no difference in suicide risk according to race and ethnicity.

But among lesbians and bisexual women, black women had lower risk of suicidal thoughts and plans as compared to white women.

Furthermore, white or black women identifying as bisexuals were more likely to report suicidal thoughts in comparison to white or black women identifying as lesbians.

In terms of age, suicidal thoughts were relatively higher in bisexual women in the 35-64 group versus lesbians in the same age group.

Overall, lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults are overall more likely to report suicide-related thoughts, plans, and attempts within the past 12 months in relation to straight adults.

Data for this study was taken from 2015– when the NSDUH first used questions about sexual identity– to 2019. The data set includes a total of 191,954 participants, of which 14,693 identified as lesbians, gays, or bisexuals.

Importance of including intersectional identity in surveys

While the researchers admitted that the NSDUH data have limitations, the findings indicate that lesbians, gays, and bisexual adults aren’t a uniform group when it comes to suicide risk.

Rajeev Ramchand, the lead author of the study, said: “This study sets the stage for future work investigating the impact of social inequalities on suicide risk among people with multiple social identities.”

Ramchand, who is NIMH Senior Advisor on Epidemiology and Suicide Prevention, noted that this study highlights the importance of checking for sexual identity in national data collection efforts.

It also underlines the need for suicide prevention services to address specific needs and experiences of lesbians, gays, and bisexual adults of different genders, ages, and race and ethnic groups.

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