Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Homophobic Bullying May Increase Suicidal Thoughts in Heterosexual Youth

Adolescents who identify as lesbian, gay, and bisexual report higher rates of bullying than heterosexual youth, and these elevated rates of bullying are associated with higher rates of depression and suicide. A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry now suggests that heterosexual youth who are victims of homophobic bullying are also more likely to report sadness/hopelessness and consider, plan, and/or attempt suicide compared with heterosexual youth who are not victims of this type of bullying.

Mike C. Parent, Ph.D., of the University of Texas at Austin and colleagues examined data from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Specifically, Parent and colleagues analyzed the responses of youth from the seven states that included the following item on the survey: “During the past 12 months, have you ever been the victim of teasing or name calling because someone thought you were gay, lesbian, or bisexual?” (This question was asked in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Rhode Island.) The survey also asked youth about experiences with sadness and hopelessness and suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts.

Of the 21,871 youth who completed this survey in these states, 15,234 identified as heterosexual; 16.4% of the heterosexual youth in the sample reported general bullying, and 7.1% reported homophobic bullying. In comparison, 24.4% of youth who did not identify as heterosexual reported general bullying, and 22.9% reported homophobic bullying.

After controlling for the effect of general bullying, the researchers found that heterosexual adolescents who reported experiencing homophobic bullying had 3.0 times increased odds of feeling sad, 3.4 times increased odds of considering suicide, 3.0 times increased odds of planning suicide, and 3.1 times increased odds of attempting suicide, compared with youth who did not report homophobic bullying.

“The present study adds to our understanding of homophobic bullying by focusing on the experiences of heterosexual adolescents,” Parent and colleagues wrote. “Future work should examine in more detail the manifestations and effect of such bullying on heterosexual adolescents, and effective messaging to enhance bullying prevention efforts that focus on anti-LGB [lesbian, gay, bisexual] climates and include heterosexual adolescents.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Bullying Found to Increase Risk for Adolescent Suicide Attempts Worldwide.”

(Image: iStock/fstop123)

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