Suicidality and sexual orientation: differences between men and women in a general population-based sample from the Netherlands

Arch Sex Behav. 2006 Jun;35(3):253-62. doi: 10.1007/s10508-006-9020-z. Epub 2006 Jun 24.


Homosexuality has been shown to be associated with suicidality and mental disorders. It is unclear whether homosexuality is related to suicidality, independently of mental disorders. This study assessed differences in lifetime symptoms of suicidality (death ideation, death wishes, suicide contemplation, and deliberate self-harm) between homosexual and heterosexual men and women, controlling for lifetime psychiatric morbidity. Interaction effects of age and the role of perceived discrimination were also examined. Data were collected on a representative sample of the Dutch population aged 18-64 years. Classification as heterosexual or homosexual was based upon reported sexual behavior in the preceding year. Of those sexually active, 2.8% of 2,878 men and 1.4% of 3,120 women had had same-sex partners. Homosexual men differed from their heterosexual counterparts on all four suicide symptoms (OR ranging from 2.58 to 10.23, with higher ORs for more severe symptoms), and on the sum total of the four symptoms; homosexual women only differed from heterosexual women on suicide contemplation (OR=2.12). Controlling for psychiatric morbidity decreased the ORs, but among men all associations were still significant; the significance for suicide contemplation among women disappeared. Younger homosexuals were not at lower risk for suicidality than older homosexuals in comparison with their heterosexual counterparts. Among homosexual men, perceived discrimination was associated with suicidality. This study suggests that even in a country with a comparatively tolerant climate regarding homosexuality, homosexual men were at much higher risk for suicidality than heterosexual men. This relationship could not only be attributed to their higher psychiatric morbidity. In women, there was no such clear relationship.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Heterosexuality / psychology*
  • Heterosexuality / statistics & numerical data*
  • Homosexuality / psychology*
  • Homosexuality / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Distribution
  • Social Environment
  • Social Perception
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires