Sexual attraction, depression, self-harm, suicidality and help-seeking behaviour in New Zealand secondary school students

Published: May 1, 2011

Abstract
OBJECTIVE:

To describe the sexual attractions of New Zealand secondary school students and investigate the associations between sexual attraction and self-reported depression, self-harm, suicidality and help-seeking behaviour.
METHOD:

Multiple logistic regression was used to examine the associations between sexual attraction and depressive symptoms, suicidality, self-harming and help-seeking behaviours in a nationally representative secondary school health and well-being survey, undertaken in 2007.
RESULTS:

Of the students surveyed, 92% were attracted to the opposite sex, 1% to the same sex, 3% to both sexes, 2% were not sure and 2% were attracted to neither sex. Students who were attracted to the same or to both sexes consistently had higher prevalence estimates of depression (p = < 0.0001), suicidality (p = < 0.0001) and self-harming (p = < 0.0001). Odds ratios were highest for students who reported they were attracted to both sexes for depressive symptoms (OR 3.7, 95%CI 2.8-4.7), self-harm (OR 5.8, 95%CI 4.4-7.6) and attempted suicide (OR 7.0, 95%CI 5.2-9.4). Students not exclusively attracted to the opposite sex were more likely to report having seen a health professional for an emotional worry and were more likely to have difficulty accessing help for emotional concerns.
CONCLUSIONS:

The study findings highlight significant mental health disparities faced by students attracted to the same or both sexes, with those attracted to both sexes appearing particularly vulnerable. There is a vital need to ensure primary care and mental health services have the capacity and capability to screen and provide appropriate responsive care for youth who are attracted to the same or both sexes.

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