Sexual Orientation Discordance and Nonfatal Suicidal Behaviors in U.S. High School Students

Published:February 12, 2018DOI:


      Studies among adults have documented association between sexual orientation discordance and some suicide risk factors. However, studies examining sexual orientation discordance and nonfatal suicidal behaviors in youth are rare. This study examines the association between sexual orientation discordance and suicidal ideation/suicide attempts among a nationally representative sample of U.S. high school students.


      Using sexual identity and sex of sexual contact measures from the 2015 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (n=6,790), a sexual orientation discordance variable was constructed describing concordance and discordance (agreement and disagreement, respectively, between sexual identity and sex of sexual contacts). Three suicide-related questions (seriously considered attempting suicide, making a plan about how they would attempt suicide, and attempting suicide) were combined to create a two-level nonfatal suicide risk variable. Analyses were restricted to students who identified as heterosexual or gay/lesbian, who had sexual contact, and who had no missing data for sex or suicide variables. The association between sexual orientation discordance and nonfatal suicide risk was assessed using logistic regression. Analyses were performed in 2017.


      Approximately 4.0% of students experienced sexual orientation discordance. High suicide risk was significantly more common among discordant students compared with concordant students (46.3% vs 22.4%, p<0.0001). In adjusted models, discordant students were 70% more likely to have had suicidal ideation/suicide attempts compared with concordant students (adjusted prevalence ratio=1.7, 95% CI=1.4, 2.0).


      Sexual orientation discordance was associated with increased likelihood of nonfatal suicidal behaviors. Discordant adolescents may experience unique stressors that should be considered when developing and implementing suicide prevention programs.
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