Background: Sexual minorities such as lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people have an increased risk for suicide, whose reasons are not sufficiently understood. We aimed to test if differences in LGB acceptance explain variations in general suicide rates on a country level.
Methods: We used linear regression models to explain the variation in age-standardized suicide rates in 34 OECD countries based on LGB acceptance, which was recently assessed in large international surveys polling the general population about their attitude towards homosexuality. We included economic and sociological variables, which have been shown to be related to suicide rates in previous work, as covariates. We then used backward elimination, leave-one-out cross-validation, and the Bayesian information criterion to identify best-fitting models (i.e., to select relevant predictors).
Results: All employed model selection methods favored a 4-predictor model, where higher LGB acceptance, fertility rate, religiosity, and unemployment rate were significantly related to lower suicide rates. Suicide rates were well explained by this sparse model (R2 adjusted = 0.442). In the full model with all predictors, as well as in the selected four-predictor model, higher LGB acceptance was significantly related to lower suicide rates.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that low LGB acceptance, as measured by international surveys, might be a risk factor for suicide.