A new study warns that teenagers who hide their sexuality are at a higher risk for suicide.
The study, in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, ‘examines the association between sexual orientation discordance and suicidal ideation/suicide attempts’.
Sexual orientation discordance is defined as ‘the mismatch between the various dimensions of sexual orientation’.
In other words, teens who identified as heterosexual but only had sexual contact/experience with members of the same sex or both sexes. Alternatively, youth identifying as gay/lesbian but only having experience with members of the opposite sex or both sexes.
Why does this discordance exist?
According to the study, factors such as homophobia, lack of opportunity to act truly, or fluidity explain this phenomenon. Furthermore, ‘societal norms may put pressure on sexual minorities to present a sexual identity inconsistent with their true sexual identity or to act in a manner inconsistent with their sexual identity’.
The numbers are alarming
Researchers surveyed nearly 7,000 teens across the US. They asked them 99 questions relating to health, suicide, and sexual identities.
Ultimately, they drew conclusions between various identity traits and the risk of non-fatal suicide behaviors. For example, women are 10% more likely to be at a high risk for suicidal tendencies than men.
When it comes to sexual orientation discordance, the numbers vary greatly.
46.3% of teens who experience this discordance are at a high risk for non-fatal suicide behaviors. Meanwhile, only 22.4% of teens who don’t experience this have a high risk.
The difference remains the same for sexual orientation identity alone.
45.9% of gay and lesbian teens are at a high risk, while 22.8% of straight teens have a high risk.
Dr. Francis Annor, who works at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, told Reuters Health that ‘suicide is preventable’.
‘Understanding . . . the challenges that adolescents experiencing discordance may encounter will help strengthen overall suicide prevention approaches in youth.’