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Alcohol Use and Suicidality by Sexual Orientation Among U.S. Youth, 2009–2017

      Introduction

      Alcohol use and suicidality remain serious risks for U.S. youth. Research has established that disparities exist in these outcomes between heterosexual and sexual minority youth. However, research into the associations between alcohol use and suicidality has yet to consider the differential role of sexual orientation.

      Methods

      Using a pooled, diverse sample from the 2009–2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, associations of alcohol use and suicidality by sex and sexual orientation, and changes in these outcomes over time, were investigated. Analyses were conducted in 2019.

      Results

      Suicidality was highest among nonheterosexuals, who ranged from twofold to sevenfold higher odds to report suicidality across all time points, with the most striking disparities among male sexual minority youth. Rates among all students remained stable or increased over time; notable exceptions included a decrease in suicide attempts among bisexual students. Among all students, current alcohol use was associated with elevated levels of suicidality. For female students, the association between drinking and suicidality did not significantly differ by sexual identity; for male students, it was significant regardless of sexual identity and most pronounced among not sure youth.

      Conclusions

      These results emphasize the need for additional research into the relationship between contemporaneous alcohol use and suicidality, with attention to differences based on sex, sexual orientation, and other factors that may impact these relationships. There is a particular need for research to examine the temporal nature of the association such that evidence-informed, high-impact interventions can be developed to improve suicidality outcomes among sexual minority youth.
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