Background: Suicide attempts are the most robust clinical predictor of suicide, which is now the second cause of death among young people in many countries. Previous research has shown an increased risk of attempted suicide associated with a homosexual orientation. However, the mechanisms underlying this increased risk are not yet clear. This study therefore aimed to determine the risk of attempted suicide and the effect of potential risk factors on the occurrence of suicidal ideation and behaviour among homosexual youngsters.
Methods: The association between suicidal ideation and behaviour and potential risk factors was assessed by means of a questionnaire in a general population sample of homosexual or bisexual young people and a control sample consisting of school pupils.
Results: A twofold increased risk of suicidal ideation was found associated with a homosexual or bisexual orientation. A significantly increased risk of attempted suicide associated with homosexuality or bisexuality was found in females. Independent of sexual orientation, depression was identified as a significant risk factor for suicidal ideation, while suicidal behaviour was associated with low self-esteem, higher levels of hopelessness and suicidal behaviour in someone close. Among homosexual or bisexual young people, less satisfying homosexual friendships were an additional risk factor for suicidal behaviour.
Conclusions: The identified increased risk of suicidal ideation among homosexual or bisexual young people is associated with depression and may lead to suicidal behaviour, independent of sexual orientation, especially in the presence of a role model of suicidal behaviour, and among those with unsatisfying friendships.