A new study focusing on sexuality in youth has found that almost 50% of closeted teenagers have considered taking their owns lives, a number more than double that compared to teenagers who were comfortable and out with their sexual orientation.
Published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the study focused on what researchers call “sexual orientation discordance,” which is when a person’s internal sexual desire doesn’t match their actions.
Examples of individuals who are classified with sexual orientation discordance include people who either identified as gay or lesbian but had sexual contact with only the opposite sex or with both sexes, or individuals who identified as heterosexual but had sexual contact with only the same sex or with both sexes.
According to the CDC’s Francis Annor, sexual orientation discordance in young people can lead to increased thoughts of suicide, especially if they’re hiding their orientation.
To complete the study, researchers surveyed almost 7,000 high school students across the United States, who are experiencing sexual orientation discordance, asking 99 questions about health and risk behaviour.
The concerning results showed that nearly half of the young adults surveyed (46 percent) reported suicidal thoughts or behaviours, compared to 22 percent of students who didn’t feel a mismatch between their sexual identities and actions.
“Discrimination, stigma, prejudice, rejection, and societal norms may put pressure on sexual minorities to present a sexual identity inconsistent with their true sexual identity or to act in a manner inconsistent with their sexual identity,” wrote Annor in the report.
“Understanding… the challenges that adolescents experiencing discordance may encounter will help strengthen overall suicide prevention approaches in youth.”
Dr. John Blosnich of the West Virginia University in Morgantown, says that the new findings are important as “suicide has been the tenth leading cause of death in the general U.S. population for at least a decade and the third leading cause of death among teenagers – and suicide deaths have been increasing in the U.S.”
“You can imagine that a huge concern for teenagers who experience conflict with their sexual identity is whether they will be rejected by their family and friends,” Blosnich added.