Washington: Youngsters, who self-identify as
gay or lesbian or who are unsure of their sexual identity, are
at higher suicide risk, a new study has claimed.
Health experts have long-known that gay, lesbian and
bisexual youth face significantly elevated risks of mental
problems, including suicidal thoughts, but a new study by a
team from McGill University in Canada found that self-identity
is the crucial risk-factor rather than actual sexual
The team administered a detailed, anonymous questionnaire
to nearly 1,900 students in 14 high schools and found that
those youths who self-identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual
or who were unsure of their sexual identity, were at higher
risk for suicidal attempts.
However, those who had same-sex attractions or sexual
experiences but thought of themselves as heterosexual Were
at no greater risk than the population at large, the Journal
of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Perhaps surprisingly, but consistent with previous
studies, the majority of youngsters with same-sex sexual
attraction or experience considered themselves to be
"This is the first study that has separated sexual
identity from sexual attractions and behaviours in looking at
risk for poor mental health outcomes," said senior researcher
Dr Brett Thombs.
"It`s important to realise that a large proportion of
people who have sex with or are attracted to people of the
same sex do not identify themselves as gay, lesbian or
bisexual. They consider themselves heterosexual," added
co-author Dr Richard Montero.
"Those students were not at all at risk of worse mental
The main message is that it`s the interface between
individuals and society that causes students who identify as
gay, lesbian, or bisexual the most distress, said first
author Yue Zhao.
"Sexual orientation has three different components. The
first is identity, which is dependent on the society in which
one lives; the second is attraction or fantasy; and the third
is behaviour," he said.
Previous studies have not addressed which of those
components may explain why GLB youth are at risk.
"What this all means is that clinicians need to look not
just at individuals and their sexuality, they really need to
assess the environment they are coming from and how they see
themselves within it," the team said.