Suicide and the Mormon LGBTQ Community

7.10.16

There are no broad and thorough studies that specifically look at this specific issue. There are, however, many that look at tangential relations, that taken together, make a strong case for a link within our community.  Here is what we know, thus far.

Suicides generally throughout the United States.

Although suicide rates have been rising since their historic low of the 2000, they are at levels last seen in 1990.  The trend over the entire period since 1960 to present has been largely flat.  With a peak of 14.3 deaths per 100,000 persons in 1977 to a low of 10.8 in 2000.

This chart also shows rates for other G7 nations.  The United States is in the middle.  There are also no distinct patterns among the world at large.

Suicide Rate World

OECD Chart: Suicide rates, Total, Per 100 000 persons, Annual, 1960 – 2014

 

Utah vs. National Suicide Rates

The Rocky Mountains Region generally have higher suicides rates compared with the rest of the country.  However, given that, something profound is happening to Utah youth in the last decade compared to Colorado and Arizona. The Utah rate has doubled since 2007, while the other states remain flat.  The following graph uses CDC data.

 

This is further supported by the Utah Department of Health statistics.  Which show the suicide rates for ages 14-17 tripling between 2007 and 2014.  Source

LGBTQ teens and suicides

 

There are many studies that show that LGBTQ teens think about, attempt, and commit suicide with a disquieting large rate compared to their heterosexual peers.  A CDC report finds that “youths with same-sex orientation are more than 2 times as likely than their same-sex peers to attempt suicide.” 45% of a transgender youth sample of 55 youth seriously thought about taking their lives.  While 26% have attempted suicide at least once. A thoroughly list of those source and others can be found in footnote one here.  A further survey of 7,000 transgender people that found 41% of transgendered people to say they have attempted suicide.

For youth in 2011, the CDC reports that 12% of heterosexual students seriously consider suicide, while gay and lesbian students report 30%, and bisexual students report 40.3%.

Attempted suicide is 6.4% for heterosexual students.  It jumps to 25.8% for gay and lesbian, and 28.0% for bisexual students.

Even given the difficulties of measuring suicide related activity, the differences are stark.

Mormonism and Suicide

 

The only study, I am aware of, that links Mormons and suicide is by a member who is a political scientist in Kentucky.

Using multivariate and difference regressions, controlling for key other key risk factors and state characteristics, he finds the following.

  1. In 2014, a higher proportion of Mormons in a state was associated with a higher level of suicides among those aged 15-19 in that state, controlling for a host of other relevant factors that are also linked to aggregate suicide rates. All other things being equal, the presence of Mormon residents in a state doubles the rate of youth suicides as the rate of Mormon residents moves from its minimum to maximum value.
  2. This association did not exist in 2009.
  3. The proportion of Mormons in a state is the only factor of all those included in the analysis (including factors most commonly identified as contributing to suicide rates) that is associated with an increase in the rate of youth suicides between 2009 and 2014.

 

http://rationalfaiths.com/mormon-religious-context-and-lgbt-youth-suicides-an-additional-empirical-analysis/

Causes

There are many causes that lead to suicide.  Isolation, substance abuse, and history of mental illness being chief among them.

A statistically sophisticated study finds a decrease of 12 years in sexual minorities’ lifespans due to belonging to a high prejudice community.  They use a nationally representative sample.  Community prejudice is measured by four questions related to attitudes related to same-gender social norms.[1]  A community is considered high-stigma if they answered, on average, 1.7 questions in the affirmative.[2]  Finally, and very importantly, they control for demographics and other health risk factors.

Specifically looking at suicides, 6.25% of high-stigma area deaths were due to suicide.  In a low-stigma community, the number if 2.94%.  This means gays are about 2.1 times as likely to commit suicide in a high-stigma community.[3]

Would Mormon communities be considered high-stigma according to the way it was measured?

Homelessness

Around 20% of homeless youth are LGB according to two separate surveys.[4]  The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates in 2006 estimated this may be between 20-40%.  The national average for LGBT’s is somewhere around 3-5%.  Nonprofits like OUTreach Resource Center, have created resources to help with this problem, in Utah, specifically.

Further Reading

Michael Barker and Daniel Parkinson extensively discuss a lot of the relevant evidence related to gay suicides and the Mormon community.  They also discuss what we can do to help.

http://rationalfaiths.com/the-lgbtq-mormon-crisis-responding-to-the-empirical-research-on-suicide/

[1] The four questions were, (1) “If some people in your community suggested that a book in favor of homosexuality should be taken out of your public library, would you favor removing this book, or not?” (2) “Should a man who admits that he is a homosexual be allowed to teach in a college or university, or not?” (3) “Suppose a man who admits that he is a homosexual wanted to make a speech in your community. Should he be allowed to speak, or not?” (4) “Do you think that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex is always wrong, almost always wrong, wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all?”.

[2] This is the median index.

[3] For violence or murder, the relative probability jumps to 3.2.

[4]  Van Leeuwen J, Boyle S, Hopfer C, et al. (2006) Lesbian, gay, and bisexual homeless youth: an eight-city public health perspective. Child Welfare.

Whitbeck, L. B., Chen, X., Hoyt, D. R., Tyler, K. A., & Johnson, K. D. (2004). Mental disorder, subsistence strategies, and victimization among gay, lesbian, and bisexual homeless and runaway adolescents. The Journal of Sex Research.

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