Sexual Orientation and Suicide Attempt Disparities Among US Adolescents: 2009-2017

Pediatrics. 2020 Mar;145(3):e20191658. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-1658. Epub 2020 Feb 10.


Background: Sexual minority adolescents face mental health disparities relative to heterosexual adolescents. We evaluated temporal changes in US adolescent reported sexual orientation and suicide attempts by sexual orientation.

Methods: We used Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance data from 6 states that collected data on sexual orientation identity and 4 states that collected data on sex of sexual contacts continuously between 2009 and 2017. We estimated odds ratios using logistic regression models to evaluate changes in reported sexual orientation identity, sex of consensual sexual contacts, and suicide attempts over time and calculated marginal effects (MEs).

Results: The proportion of adolescents reporting minority sexual orientation identity nearly doubled, from 7.3% in 2009 to 14.3% in 2017 (ME: 0.8 percentage points [pp] per year; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.6 to 0.9 pp). The proportion of adolescents reporting any same-sex sexual contact increased by 70%, from 7.7% in 2009 to 13.1% in 2017 (ME: 0.6 pp per year; 95% CI: 0.4 to 0.8 pp). Although suicide attempts declined among students identifying as sexual minorities (ME: -0.8 pp per year; 95% CI: -1.4 to -0.2 pp), these students remained >3 times more likely to attempt suicide relative to heterosexual students in 2017. Sexual minority adolescents accounted for an increasing proportion of all adolescent suicide attempts.

Conclusions: The proportion of adolescents reporting sexual minority identity and same-sex sexual contacts increased between 2009 and 2017. Disparities in suicide attempts persist. Developing and implementing approaches to reducing sexual minority youth suicide is critically important.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors
  • United States