A new study reveals that gays and lesbians who have a strong personal sense of religiosity are at a higher risk for suicide.
While religiosity has been connected to lower odds of suicidal ideation and behavior among the general population, the same cannot be said for LGBQ adults who subscribe deeply to religion. According to findings by authors Megan C. Lytle, John R. Blosnich, Susan M. DeLuca, and Chris Brownson, sexual minorities — gays, lesbians, and those who are questioning their sexuality — that have deep religious feelings are more likely to engage in suicidal ideations and behavior.
The researchers’ results were derived from data gathered from 21,247 U.S. college students, age 18 to 30 years old. 2.2 percent of the respondents identified themselves as being lesbian or gay, while 3.3 percent said they’re bisexual. 1.1 percent said they were questioning their sexuality.
The respondents rated how important religion is to them from 1 to 5, with 1 being “not important” and 5 being “very important.” Results revealed that 21 to 28 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual respondents saw religion as important to their lives, rating it as either 4 or 5. On the other hand, 39 percent of heterosexual respondents believed religion played a vital role in their lives.
Risk of suicide among LGBQ respondents was generally significantly higher than among heterosexual participants, with those questioning their sexuality having the highest rate for recent suicidal thought at 16.4 percent. They are followed by bisexual respondents at 11.4 percent and gay and lesbian respondents at 6.5 percent.
Moreover, gays and lesbians who identified religion as being important to them were found to be 38 percent more likely to have had thoughts of suicide. When data from lesbian respondents was reviewed exclusively, it was found that religiosity among them was linked to a 52 percent increase in suicidal thinking.
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For LGBQ respondents who did not place any personal importance on religion, their sexual orientation did not appear to have any significant link with increased suicidal tendencies.
“Overall, increased importance of religion was associated with higher odds of recent suicide ideation for both gay/lesbian and questioning students,” the researchers wrote in their study.
For straight respondents, a high personal regard for religion served as a protective factor against suicidal thoughts and behavior.
“Some sexual minority folks are really at odds. They feel very confused or they feel that they are in conflict with their faith because of who they are. That’s a very scary place to be in,” co-author John R. Blosnich, who works at the Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University, told Reuters.
Whether the particular religions of the participants disapproved of their sexuality was a factor that did not make into the study, a limitation the researchers recognize. The population from which the data was gathered may also not represent the general population.
According to the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of adult evangelical protestants believe homosexuality should be discouraged, while 23 percent of Catholic adults hold the same view. A staggering 76 percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses express a disapproving opinion of homosexuality.
The study was published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.