Risk and protective factors for suicide among sexual minority youth seeking emergency medical services

Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Differences in risk and protective factors (e.g., victimization, abuse, social support) have been used to explain elevated rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in sexual minority youth (SMY) relative to heterosexual peers. However, little is known regarding how risk and protective factors may explain suicide risk differences among subgroups of SMY. The aims of this study were to 1) examine differences in prevalence and severity for suicide risk and protective factors among SMY, and 2) explore whether risk and protective factors are differentially associated with suicidal ideation and suicide attempts for SMY subgroups. Methods: Participants were 6,423 adolescents (ages 12–17) recruited from 14 Emergency Departments across the United States who completed an assessment of suicide risk and protective factors. SMY were 20% of the sample (n = 1,275) and categorized as bisexual (8%), gay/lesbian (2%), mostly straight (5%), or other sexual minority (5%). Results: Bisexual youth had elevated rates of suicidal ideation and attempts, more risk factors (e.g., bullying victimization, depression), and fewer protective factors (e.g., parent-family connectedness, positive affect) relative to mostly straight and other sexual minority youth. Bisexual and gay/lesbian youth only differed in parent-family connectedness (lower among bisexual youth). Depression and parent-family connectedness had weaker associations with suicidal ideation for bisexual youth. Limitations: Emergency departments were not nationally representative. Study design was cross-sectional, preventing causal inferences. Conclusions: Interventions seeking to mitigate risk factors and promote protective factors are greatly needed for SMY and may benefit from tailoring to address unique stressors for sexual minority subgroups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-281
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Jan 15 2021


  • Connectedness
  • Risk factors
  • Sexual minority youth
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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