Prevention Science

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 451–462 | Cite as

Understanding Linkages Between Bullying and Suicidal Ideation in a National Sample of LGB and Heterosexual Youth in the United States

  • Michele L. YbarraEmail author
  • Kimberly J. Mitchell
  • Joseph G. Kosciw
  • Josephine D. Korchmaros


While there is an extant research base regarding suicidal ideation in relation to bullying and peer harassment, how findings may be similar and different for lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) and non-LGB youth is less well understood. To address this gap, we analyzed data from 5,542 13- to 18-year-old youth who were nationally surveyed online in the United States in 2010. Results suggest that the relative odds of suicidal ideation are elevated for youth who are victims of bullying (OR = 5.61, 95 % CI, 4.11, 7.64), as well as those who are victims of peer harassment (OR = 2.06, 95 % CI, 1.53, 2.79). Within the context of other important factors, bullying was associated with odds of suicidal ideation twice that of non-victimized youth (aOR = 2.02, 95 % CI, 1.30, 3.13). Within sexual identity, the relation between bullying and suicidal ideation was particularly strong for gay, lesbian, and queer youth, even after adjusting for other influential factors (aOR = 6.29, 95 % CI, 2.69, 14.66). Across sexual identities, the odds of suicidal ideation are higher for bisexual youth (aOR = 1.77, 95 % CI, 1.23, 2.55) but not for other sexual minority youth when compared with otherwise similar heterosexual youth. Other factors, including depressive symptomatology and low self-esteem, were also predictive of recent ideation across all sexual identities. Findings highlight the complexity of bullying and suicidal ideation. Furthermore, given the relation between bullying and suicidal ideation, and the disproportionate level of bullying experienced by LGB youth, our findings suggest the need for more protective environments for LGB youth.


Peer victimization Bullying Suicidal ideation Adolescents Lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB) 



The project described was supported by Award Number R01 HD057191 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development or the National Institutes of Health. No financial disclosures were reported by the authors of this paper. We would like to thank the entire study team from the Center for Innovative Public Health Research, the University of New Hampshire, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Latrobe University, and Harris Interactive, who contributed to the planning and implementation of the study. We would also like to thank Dr. Marie Diener-West for her feedback on earlier drafts of the manuscript. And, we thank the study participants for their time and willingness to participate in this study. Authors are listed in order of contribution.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michele L. Ybarra
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kimberly J. Mitchell
    • 2
  • Joseph G. Kosciw
    • 3
  • Josephine D. Korchmaros
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Center for Innovative Public Health ResearchSan ClementeUSA
  2. 2.Crimes against Children Research CenterUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)New York CityUSA
  4. 4.Southwest Institute for Research on WomenUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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