Protective school climates and reduced risk for suicide ideation in sexual minority youths

Mark L. Hatzenbuehler*, Michelle Birkett, Aimee Van Wagenen, Ilan H. Meyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

106 Scopus citations


Objectives. We examined whether sexual minority students living in states and cities with more protective school climates were at lower risk of suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts. Methods. Data on sexual orientation and past-year suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts were from the pooled 2005 and 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Surveys from 8 states and cities. We derived data on school climates that protected sexual minority students (e.g., percentage of schools with safe spaces and Gay-Straight Alliances) from the 2010 School Health Profile Survey, compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Results. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual students living in states and cities with more protective school climates reported fewer past-year suicidal thoughts than those living in states and cities with less protective climates (lesbians and gays: odds ratio [OR] = 0.68; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.47, 0.99; bisexuals: OR = 0.81; 95% CI = 0.66, 0.99). Results were robust to adjustment for potential state-level confounders. Sexual orientation disparities in suicidal thoughts were nearly eliminated in states and cities with the most protective school climates. Conclusions. School climates that protect sexual minority students may reduce their risk of suicidal thoughts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-286
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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