Research Article| Volume 54, ISSUE 5, P644-651, May 2018

Association of Religiosity With Sexual Minority Suicide Ideation and Attempt

  • Megan C. Lytle
    Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York
    Search for articles by this author
  • John R. Blosnich
    Address correspondence to: John R. Blosnich, PhD, MPH, Injury Control Research Center, West Virginia University, 3606 Collins Ferry Road, Research Ridge, Suite 201, Morgantown WV 26508
    Injury Control Research Center, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia

    Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, VA Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Search for articles by this author
  • Susan M. De Luca
    School of Social Work, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas

    Population Research Center, Austin, Texas
    Search for articles by this author
  • Chris Brownson
    Counseling and Mental Health Center, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas

    Department of Educational Psychology, College of Education, Austin, Texas
    Search for articles by this author


      The purpose of this study is to explore how the associations between importance of religion and recent suicide ideation, recent suicide attempt, and lifetime suicide attempt vary by sexual orientation.


      Survey data were collected from the 2011 University of Texas at Austin’s Research Consortium data from 21,247 college-enrolled young adults aged 18–30 years. Respondents reported sexual identity as heterosexual, gay/lesbian, bisexual, or questioning. Two sets of multivariable models were conducted to explore the relations of religious importance and sexual orientation with the prevalence of suicidal behavior. The first model was stratified by sexual orientation and the second model was stratified by importance of religion. To explore potential gender differences in self-directed violence, the models were also stratified by gender identity. The main outcome measures were recent suicidal ideation, recent suicide attempt, and lifetime suicide attempt.


      Overall, increased importance of religion was associated with higher odds of recent suicide ideation for both gay/lesbian and questioning students. The association between sexual orientation and self-directed violence were mixed and varied by strata. Lesbian/gay students who viewed religion as very important had greater odds for recent suicidal ideation and lifetime suicide attempt compared with heterosexual individuals. Bisexual and questioning sexual orientations were significantly associated with recent suicide ideation, recent attempt, and lifetime attempt across all strata of religious importance, but the strongest effects were among those who reported that religion was very important.


      Religion-based services for mental health and suicide prevention may not benefit gay/lesbian, bisexual, or questioning individuals. Religion-based service providers should actively assure their services are open and supportive of gay/lesbian, bisexual, or questioning individuals.
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to American Journal of Preventive Medicine
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • CDC. WISQARS
        Fatal Injury Reports, National and Regional, 1999–2014.
        Atlanta. CDC, GA2014
        • Haas A.P.
        • Eliason M.
        • Mays V.M.
        • et al.
        Suicide and suicide risk in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations: review and recommendations.
        J Homosex. 2010; 58: 10-51
        • Lytle M.C.
        • De Luca S.M.
        • Blosnich J.R.
        The influence of intersecting identities on self-harm, suicidal behaviors, and depression among lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals.
        Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2014; 44: 384-391
        • Lytle M.C.
        • De Luca S.M.
        • Blosnich J.R.
        • Brownson C.
        Associations of racial/ethnic identities and religious affiliation with suicidal ideation among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning individuals.
        J Affect Disord. 2015; 178: 39-45
        • Meyer I.H.
        • Dietrich J.
        • Schwartz S.
        Lifetime prevalence of mental disorders and suicide attempts in diverse lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations.
        Am J Public Health. 2008; 98: 1004-1006
        • Hottes T.S.
        • Bogaert L.
        • Rhodes A.E.
        • Brennan D.J.
        • Gesink D.
        Lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts among sexual minority adults by study sampling strategies: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
        Am J Public Health. 2016; 106: e1-e12
        • Plöderl M.
        • Tremblay P.
        Mental health of sexual minorities. A systematic review.
        Int Rev Psychiatry. 2015; 27: 367-385
        • Miranda-Mendizábal A.
        • Castellví P.
        • Parés-Badell O.
        • et al.
        Sexual orientation and suicidal behaviour in adolescents and young adults: systematic review and meta-analysis.
        Br J Psychiatry. 2017; 211: 77-87
        • Kralovec K.
        • Fartacek C.
        • Fartacek R.
        • Plöderl M.
        Religion and suicide risk in lesbian, gay and bisexual Austrians.
        J Relig Health. 2014; 53: 413-423
        • Barnes D.M.
        • Meyer I.H.
        Religious affiliation, internalized homophobia, and mental health in lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals.
        Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2012; 82: 505-515
        • Gibbs J.J.
        • Goldbach J.
        Religious conflict, sexual identity, and suicidal behaviors among LGBT young adults.
        Arch Suicide Res. 2015; 19: 472-488
        • Shearer A.
        • Russon J.
        • Herres J.
        • et al.
        Religion, sexual orientation, and suicide attempts among a sample of suicidal adolescents.
        Suicide Life Threat Behav. In Press. Online July 20. 2017;
        • Stack S.
        • Kposowa A.J.
        Religion and suicide acceptability: a cross-national analysis.
        J Sci Study Relig. 2011; 50: 289-306
        • Yonker J.E.
        • Schnabelrauch C.A.
        • DeHaan L.G.
        The relationship between spirituality and religiosity on psychological outcomes in adolescents and emerging adults: a meta-analytic review.
        J Adolesc. 2012; 35: 299-314
        • Nelson G.
        • Hanna R.
        • Houri A.
        • Klimes-Dougan B.
        Protective functions of religious traditions for suicide risk.
        Suicidol Online. 2012; 3: 59-71
        • Taliaferro L.A.
        • Rienzo B.A.
        • Pigg R.M.
        • Miller M.D.
        • Dodd V.J.
        Spiritual well-being and suicidal ideation among college students.
        J Am Coll Health. 2009; 58: 83-90
        • Pescosolido B.A.
        • Georgianna S.
        Durkheim, suicide, and religion: toward a network theory of suicide.
        Am Sociol Rev. 1989; 54: 33-48
        • Rasic D.
        • Robinson J.A.
        • Bolton J.
        • Bienvenu O.J.
        • Sareen J.
        Longitudinal relationships of religious worship attendance and spirituality with major depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal ideation and attempts: findings from the Baltimore epidemiologic catchment area study.
        J Psychiatr Res. 2011; 45: 848-854
        • Rowatt W.C.
        • LaBouff J.
        • Johnson M.
        • Froese P.
        • Tsang J.-A.
        Associations among religiousness, social attitudes, and prejudice in a national random sample of American adults.
        Psychol Relig Spiritual. 2009; 1: 14
        • Saewyc E.M.
        • Homma Y.
        • Skay C.L.
        • Bearinger L.H.
        • Resnick M.D.
        • Reis E.
        Protective factors in the lives of bisexual adolescents in North America.
        Am J Public Health. 2009; 99: 110-117
        • Lease S.H.
        • Horne S.G.
        • Noffsinger-Frazier N.
        Affirming faith experiences and psychological health for Caucasian lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals.
        J Couns Psychol. 2005; 52: 378
        • Meyer I.H.
        • Teylan M.
        • Schwartz S.
        The role of help-seeking in preventing suicide attempts among lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals.
        Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2015; 45: 25-36
        • Sherry A.
        • Adelman A.
        • Whilde M.R.
        • Quick D.
        Competing selves: negotiating the intersection of spiritual and sexual identities.
        Prof Psychol Res Pr. 2010; 41: 112
        • Schnoor R.F.
        Being gay and Jewish: negotiating intersecting identities.
        Sociol Relig. 2006; 67: 43-60
        • Drum D.J.
        • Brownson C.
        • Hess E.A.
        • Denmark A.B.
        • Talley A.E.
        College students’ sense of coherence and connectedness as predictors of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
        Arch Suicide Res. 2017; 21: 169-184
        • Zauzmer J.
        A Dallas church voted to perform gay marriages, and it’s getting kicked out of the Texas Baptists.
        The Washington Post. 2016; (November 16, 2016)
        • Matthews D.D.
        • Blosnich J.R.
        • Farmer G.W.
        • Adams B.J.
        Operational definitions of sexual orientation and estimates of adolescent health risk behaviors.
        LGBT Health. 2014; 1: 42-49
        • Office of the Surgeon General National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention
        2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action: A Report of the U.S. Surgeon General and of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
        DHHS, Washington, DC2012
        • Schuck K.D.
        • Liddle B.J.
        Religious conflicts experienced by lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals.
        J Gay Lesbian Psychother. 2001; 5: 63-82
        • Flentje A.
        • Heck N.C.
        • Cochran B.N.
        Experiences of ex-ex-gay individuals in sexual reorientation therapy: reasons for seeking treatment, perceived helpfulness and harmfulness of treatment, and post-treatment identification.
        J Homosex. 2014; 61: 1242-1268
        • Anton B.S.
        Proceedings of the American Psychological Association for the legislative year 2009: minutes of the annual meeting of the Council of Representatives and minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors.
        Am Psychol. 2010; 65: 385
        • Green E.
        The Divided Methodist Church.
        The Atlantic. 2016; (May 18, 2016)
        • Molock S.D.
        • Matlin S.
        • Barksdale C.
        • Puri R.
        • Lyles J.
        Developing suicide prevention programs for African American youth in African American churches.
        Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2008; 38: 323-333
        • Williams L.
        • Gorman R.
        • Hankerson S.
        Implementing a mental health ministry committee in faith-based organizations: the promoting emotional wellness and spirituality program.
        Soc Work Health Care. 2014; 53: 414-434
        • Hankerson S.H.
        • Lee Y.A.
        • Brawley D.K.
        • Braswell K.
        • Wickramaratne P.J.
        • Weissman M.M.
        Screening for depression in African-American churches.
        Am J Prev Med. 2015; 49: 526-533
        • Wang P.S.
        • Berglund P.A.
        • Kessler R.C.
        Patterns and correlates of contacting clergy for mental disorders in the United States.
        Health Serv Res. 2003; 38: 647-673
        • Chatters L.M.
        • Levin J.S.
        • Ellison C.G.
        Public health and health education in faith communities.
        Health Educ Behav. 1998; 25: 689-699
        • Minwalla O.
        • Rosser B.S.
        • Feldman J.
        • Varga C.
        Identity experience among progressive gay Muslims in North America: a qualitative study within Al-Fatiha.
        Cult Health Sex. 2005; 7: 113-128
        • Lytle M.C.
        • Foley P.F.
        • Aster A.M.
        Adult children of gay and lesbian parents religion and the parent-child relationship.
        Couns Psychol. 2013; 41: 530-567
        • Primack B.A.
        • Sidani J.
        • Agarwal A.A.
        • Shadel W.G.
        • Donny E.C.
        • Eissenberg T.E.
        Prevalence of and associations with waterpipe tobacco smoking among U.S. university students.
        Ann Behav Med. 2008; 36: 81-86
        • Whitlock J.
        • Knox K.L.
        The relationship between self-injurious behavior and suicide in a young adult population.
        Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007; 161: 634-640
        • Berg C.J.
        • Stratton E.
        • Schauer G.L.
        • et al.
        Perceived harm, addictiveness, and social acceptability of tobacco products and marijuana among young adults: marijuana, hookah, and electronic cigarettes win.
        Subst Use Misuse. 2015; 50: 79-89