A National Study on Religiosity and Suicide Risk by Sexual Orientation

Published:October 18, 2022DOI:


      Although religiosity is known to predict lower suicide risk among the general population, it is unclear how different aspects of religiosity such as religious beliefs and attendance are associated with suicide risk among sexual minorities relative to heterosexual populations.


      Analyzing nationally representative data from the 2016–2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2022 (N=163,995), this study conducted logistic regressions to link suicidal ideation, plans, and attempts with religious beliefs and attendance. Moderation analyses were used to assess how religiosity is differentially linked to suicide risk among heterosexual, gay/lesbian, and bisexual males and females.


      Although higher religiosity is consistently associated with lower suicide risk among heterosexual people, the effects of religiosity may be less beneficial or even harmful among sexual minorities. Specifically, religious attendance is associated with lower odds of suicidal ideation, plans, and attempts among heterosexual people, but it is also related to higher odds among gay/lesbian and bisexual people. In addition, religious beliefs are associated with lower odds of suicidal plans and attempts among heterosexual people, but this association is significantly weaker for bisexual people. These findings are more pronounced among gay males and bisexual females.


      Using population-based data, this study shows that the relationships between religiosity and suicide risk vary by sexual orientation and gender and that religious beliefs and religious attendance are differentially associated with suicide risk among sexual minorities. Future research should continue to explore how various aspects of religious participation may influence the mental health of diverse sexual minority communities.
      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


      1. Hedegaard H, Curtin S, Warner M. Suicide Mortality in the United States, 1999-2019. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published February 19, 2021.

        • Capistrant BD
        • Nakash O.
        Suicide risk for sexual minorities in middle and older age: evidence from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
        Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2019; 27: 559-563
        • Haney JL.
        Suicidality risk among adult sexual minorities: results from a cross-sectional population-based survey.
        J Gay Lesbian Soc Serv. 2021; 33: 250-271
        • Ramchand R
        • Schuler MS
        • Schoenbaum M
        • Colpe L
        • Ayer L.
        Suicidality among sexual minority adults: gender, age, and race/ethnicity differences.
        Am J Prev Med. 2022; 62: 193-202
        • Salway T
        • Ross LE
        • Fehr CP
        • et al.
        A systematic review and meta-analysis of disparities in the prevalence of suicide ideation and attempt among bisexual populations.
        Arch Sex Behav. 2019; 48: 89-111
        • Meyer IH.
        Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: conceptual issues and research evidence.
        Psychol Bull. 2003; 129: 674-697
        • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
        Understanding the Well-Being of LGBTQI+ Populations.
        The National Academies Press, Washington, DC2020
        • Gearing RE
        • Alonzo D.
        Religion and suicide: new findings.
        J Relig Health. 2018; 57: 2478-2499
        • Schnabel L
        • Abdelhadi E
        • Ally Zaslavsky K
        • Ho JS
        • Torres-Beltran A
        Gender, sexuality, and religion: a critical integrative review and agenda for future research.
        J Sci Study Relig. 2022; 61: 271-292
      2. Durkheim E. Suicide: A Study in Sociology.
        Routledge, London, United Kingdom1897
        • Hsieh N.
        A global perspective on religious participation and suicide.
        J Health Soc Behav. 2017; 58: 322-339
        • Lytle MC
        • Blosnich JR
        • De Luca SM
        • Brownson C.
        Association of religiosity with sexual minority suicide ideation and attempt.
        Am J Prev Med. 2018; 54: 644-651
      3. McGraw JS, Docherty M, Chinn JR, Mahoney A. Family, faith, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) among LGBTQ youth in Utah. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. In press. Online October 7, 2021.

        • Lefevor GT
        • Davis EB
        • Paiz JY
        • Smack ACP.
        The relationship between religiousness and health among sexual minorities: a meta-analysis.
        Psychol Bull. 2021; 147: 647-666
        • Oh H
        • Goehring J
        • Smith L
        • Zhou S
        • Blosnich J.
        Sexual minority status, religiosity, and suicidal behaviors among college students in the United States.
        J Affect Disord. 2022; 305: 65-70
        • Suran M.
        Suicide risk varies with demographics and sexual orientation.
        JAMA. 2021; 326: 2463
        • Mueller AS
        • James W
        • Abrutyn S
        • Levin ML.
        Suicide ideation and bullying among U.S. adolescents: examining the intersections of sexual orientation, gender, and race/ethnicity.
        Am J Public Health. 2015; 105: 980-985
        • Hatzenbuehler ML
        • Bränström R
        • Pachankis JE.
        Societal-level explanations for reductions in sexual orientation mental health disparities: results from a ten-year, population-based study in Sweden.
        Stigma Health. 2018; 3: 16-26
      4. 2019 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) releases. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Updated September 11, 2020. Accessed March 14, 2022.

        • Mahoney A
        • Pargament KI
        • Tarakeshwar N
        • Swank AB.
        Religion in the home in the 1980s and 1990s: a meta-analytic review and conceptual analysis of links between religion, marriage, and parenting.
        J Fam Psychol. 2001; 15: 559-596