Gay, lesbian and bisexual students in the U.K. were at greater risk for self-harm even after accounting for depression, anxiety, belongingness and self-esteem as mediating factors, according to study findings published in Archives of Suicide Research.
“Currently, while [lesbian, gay and bisexual] individuals are known to be a high-risk group, there is less research focused on the psychological variable that may help explain this risk,” Peter James Taylor, PhD, from the division of psychology and mental health, University of Manchester, and colleagues wrote. “In particular, data from U.K. higher-education students that assesses the association between [lesbian, gay and bisexual] status, self-harm, and hypothesized psychological mediators, are limited.”
In their study, the investigators assessed the relationship between lesbian, gay and bisexual status and both nonsuicidal self-injury and suicide attempts in 707 U.K. university students using a cross-sectional survey. They also examined whether psychological variables — depression, anxiety, belongingness and self-esteem — mediated this relationship. Participants completed an online survey that included measures of self-harm, affective symptoms, belongingness and self-esteem. Researchers used latent variable modelling to test their hypotheses.
Overall, 119 participants reported gay or bisexual status. The results showed that lesbian, gay and bisexual status remained associated with nonsuicidal self-injury even after Taylor and colleagues accounted for mediators; however, the strength of this link decreased slightly. In addition, self-esteem was linked to risk for self-harm and also was a significant mediator.
The investigators observed similar results for suicide attempts. Although the effect size was smaller than that for nonsuicidal self-injury, self-esteem and belongingness were also linked to risk for suicide attempt. Adding anxiety and depressive symptoms to the model led to poorer fit when assessing both nonsuicidal self-injury and suicide attempts, according to the results.
The researchers found that not only are lesbian, gay and bisexual students in the U.K. at higher risk for self-harm, but also psychological factors — especially self-esteem — may account for the connection between sexual status and risk for self-harm, according to Taylor and colleagues.
“It has been noted that evidence is lacking for self-harm prevention interventions aimed at [lesbian, gay and bisexual] individuals. A multifaceted approach to prevention and intervention may be well suited here,” they wrote. “At a societal level, working to reduce discrimination and improve acceptance of [lesbian, gay and bisexual status] individuals through public policy and media campaigns may be helpful in reducing any impact on self-esteem.” – by Savannah Demko
Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.