High school students who have sexual contact that doesn’t jibe with their sexuality are more likely to attempt suicide. CC0 Creative Commons

Young people are more likely to think about or attempt suicide when they have sexual contact that clashes with their orientation, according to a new study.

That type of contact falls under sexual discordance and can be, for example, when someone is gay but engages in a heterosexual encounter or when a person is straight and has a homosexual one. Researchers probed survey results in which thousands of high school students reported their sexual orientation, previous sexual contact and history of suicidal thoughts and behavior. According to their report, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, a higher suicide risk was more common when the young person’s sexual contact disagreed with their identity.

About 4 percent of the almost 6,800 students who responded to the survey had experienced discordance. Within that slice of the subjects, the prevalence of people at a high suicide risk was significantly larger than the group of students whose sexual contact aligned with their sexual orientations.

Being at a high risk was defined as seriously considering suicide or making at least one attempt in the last year.

The conflicted students were 70 percent more likely to think about and attempt suicide than their counterparts. The figure accounts for both students who were forced into discordant sexual intercourse and those who were not forced.

When the forced encounters were excluded, the risk was still heightened — the discordant students were 60 percent more likely to consider or attempt suicide.

“Sexual orientation discordance was associated with increased likelihood of nonfatal suicidal behaviors,” the study says. “Discordant adolescents may experience unique stressors that should be considered when developing and implementing suicide prevention programs.”

Previous research has investigated a link between sexual discordance and risk factors for suicide. The new study adds a layer to that idea.

Suicide is a leading cause of death among teenagers, journal publisher Elsevier noted.

“These findings are a wakeup call that we need to learn more about why teens who engage in sexual activity that is different than their sexual orientation are more likely to think about or attempt suicide,” lead study investigator Francis B. Annor said in the publisher statement. “A better understanding of the stress that leads to suicidal thoughts or attempts among these young people can help communities identify and implement tailored approaches to help them.”