Sexual Orientation in Adolescents Who Commit Suicide

David Shaffer, R. H. Hicks, Michael Parides, Madelyn Gould

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


It has been suggested that there is a strong relationship between suicidal behavior and homosexuality in adolescence. It has been further suggested that it is due to the stigmatization and feelings of isolation that are experienced by many gay adolescents. Much of the literature that has given support to these hypotheses has been conducted on uncontrolled nonrepresentative samples and its generalizability is open to question. An opportunity to examine the relationship in an unselected sample arose in a case control, psychological autopsy study of 120 of 170 consecutive suicides under age 20 and 147 community age, sex, and ethnic matched controls living in the Greater New York City area. Homosexuality was defined as having had homosexual experiences or having declared a homosexual orientation. Three teenagers and no controls met these criteria. The difference was not significant. The circumstances of death were examined and are described. In no instance did suicide directly follow an episode of stigmatization. All three suicides had evidence of significant psychiatric disorder before death. In spite of opportunities for biased reporting, it is concluded that this study finds no evidence that suicide is a common characteristic of gay youth, or that when suicide does occur among gay teenagers, that it is a direct consequence of stigmatization or lack of support. 1995 The American Association for Suicidology

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-71
Number of pages8
JournalSuicide and Life‐Threatening Behavior
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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