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Study looks at gay teen suicide risk

Associated Press / April 18, 2011

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CHICAGO — Suicide attempts by gay teenagers — and even straight teens — are more common in politically conservative areas that lack school programs supporting gay rights, a study involving nearly 32,000 high school students found.

Those factors were a substantial influence on suicide attempts even when known risk contributors like depression and being bullied were considered, said study author Mark Hatzenbuehler, a Columbia University psychologist and researcher. The study was published online today in the journal Pediatrics.

Hatzenbuehler’s team found a higher rate of suicide attempts even among youths who were not bullied or depressed when they lived in counties less supportive of gays and with relatively few Democrats. A high proportion of Democrats was a measure used as a proxy for a more liberal environment.

The research focused on the state of Oregon and created a social index to assess outside factors contributing to suicidal tendencies. Other teen health experts called it a novel way to evaluate the problem.

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