Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020), with LGBTQ youth being four times more likely to seriously consider suicide, to make a plan for suicide, and to attempt suicide than their peers (Johns et al., 2019; Johns et al., 2020). Understanding the number of LGBTQ youth who seriously consider and attempt suicide, as well as how often suicide risk occurs, improves our ability to serve and advocate for LGBTQ youth.
The Trevor Project estimates that at least one LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13–24 attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the U.S.
Because many LGBTQ youth report attempting suicide multiple times in a given year, this estimate likely underrepresents the extent of how often LGBTQ youth attempt suicide in the U.S. Additionally, The Trevor Project’s past-year attempted suicide rates are based on non-probability data that trend slightly slower than rates among national probability datasets
A. Estimating the Number of LGBTQ Youth Ages of 13–24 in the U.S.
This estimate is based on Trevor’s previous estimates of the total number of LGBTQ youth between ages 13–24 who live in the U.S. each year. The process for deriving these numbers can be found in The Trevor Project’s National Estimate of LGBTQ Youth Seriously Considering Suicide. Based on our previous estimation process, there are approximately 2,647,755 LGBTQ youth living in the United States who are between the ages of 13–18 and approximately 2,529,117 who are between the ages of 19–24.
B. Estimating the Number of LGBTQ Youth Who Attempted Suicide in the Past Year
The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey of LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 19.0% of LGBTQ youth ages 13–18 and 8.3% of LGBTQ youth ages 19–24 reported attempting suicide in the past year. Applying these rates to the estimates of LGBTQ youth living in the U.S. results in an estimated 503,073 LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13–18 and 209,917 between the ages of 19–24 who attempted suicide in the past year, for a total of 712,990 LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13–24.
C. Estimating How Often LGBTQ Youth Attempt Suicide in the U.S.
To approximate how often attempts occur, the estimated total number of LGBTQ youth ages 13–24 who attempted suicide (712,990) was divided by the total number of minutes in a year (525,600), resulting in an estimated 1.356525992 attempts each minute or .02260876654 per second. Dividing the number 1 by the estimate per second, provides an estimate of how often an attempt occurs in seconds, which was 44.23063055. As such, we estimate that at least one LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13–24 attempts suicide in the U.S. every 45 seconds.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). WISQARS fatal injury reports, 1999-2018, for national, regional, and states. https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html
Johns, M.M., Lowry, R., Andrzejewski, J., Barrios, L.C., Zewditu, D., McManus, T., et al. (2019). Transgender identity and experiences of violence victimization, substance use, suicide risk, and sexual risk behaviors among high school student–19 states and large urban school districts, 2017. MMWR, 68(3), 65-71.
Johns M.M., Lowry R., Haderxhanaj L.T., et al. (2020). Trends in violence victimization and suicide risk by sexual identity among high school students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2015–2019. MMWR Suppl, 69,(Suppl-1):19–27.
This estimation does not account for the fact that many LGBTQ youth report multiple suicide attempts each year. Further suicide attempts are not distributed across time in an even and consistent pattern. Thus, this estimate only serves as an approximation of how often LGBTQ youth attempt suicide. Although the data on frequency of suicide attempts is based on our National Survey (which is not a probability survey), our findings are similar to other reputable sources such as the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey.