Is there a link between religious faith and Mental Health?

Research has demonstrated that a disproportionate number experience poorer mental health outcomes and have higher risk of suicidal behaviours than their peers. These health outcomes can directly related to experiences of stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse on the basis of being LGBTI. But, Is there a link between religious faith and suicidal thoughts?

A recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows a link between religious faith and suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ youth. Published earlier this year, the study reveals that religion helps protect most people from thoughts of suicide. However, for those aged 18-30 who identify as LGBTQ, it does the opposite.

John R. Blosnich, of West Virginia University’s Injury Control Research Center, and his co-authors, used date from the University of Texas at Austin. That school’s Research Consortium studies the mental health of college students.

Its latest information surveyed 21,247 students.

Of these students, 2.3% identified as gay or lesbian, 3.3% identified as bisexual, 1.1% responded they were questioning. 0.2% identified as trans, but this was too small of a sample size.

Below is snapshot what is known of the current mental health and wellbeing outcomes of LGBTI people in Australia.

Suicide Ideation

Compared to the general population, LGBTI people are more likely to have thoughts of suicide, specifically:

  • Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people aged 16 and over are over six times more likely
  • Transgender people aged 18 and over are nearly eighteen times more likely
  • People with an Intersex variation aged 16 and over are nearly five times more likely
  • LGBT young people who experience abuse and harassment are even more likely to have thoughts of suicide

Statistics for LGBTI Populations

  • 15.15% of LGBTI people aged 16 and over report current thoughts of suicide in the past 2 weeks
  • 41% of Transgender people and people with a Non-Binary gender aged 18 years and over report thoughts of suicide or self harm in the last 2 weeks
  • 60% of people with an Intersex variation aged 16 and over had thoughts about suicide on the basis of issues related to having congenital sex variation
  • 22% of Same-Gender Attracted and Gender Diverse young people between 14 and 21 years have thoughts of suicide, which increases to 30% for those who have experienced verbal abuse and to 60% who have experienced physical abuse

Statistics for General Population

  • 13.3% of the general population (15% females; 11.5% males) aged 16 and over in Australia have had suicidal ideation in their lifetime; 2.3% of general population (2.7% females; 1.8% males) in the last 12 months
  • 3.44% of the general population (1.7% of males and 5.1% of females) aged 16 to 24 in Australia have had suicidal ideation in the past 12 months


Retrieved from on the 21-4-18

A worrying connection

In general, the study showed higher rates of suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ youth versus their heterosexual peers. This is uniform across most studies.

However, for the heterosexual students, religious importance in their lives decreased suicide attempts by 17%.

The numbers change significantly for LGBTQ youth.

For lesbian and gay students who cite religion as being important, they were 38% more like to have suicidal thoughts than lesbian and gay student who said religion wasn’t important. Indeed, for lesbians alone, authors linked religion and faith to a 52% increase in suicidal ideation.

Bisexuals didn’t show much of a link, but students who were questioning did at truly alarming rates.

For those questioning students who said religion was important, they attempted suicide recently at three times the rate of questioning students who said religion wasn’t important.

A need for change

We need more data, not all surveys include data of both sexuality and religion, which is why they used this survey.

Regardless, there is clearly a need to do more work addressing this epidemic. It’s a matter of respect, dignity, and safety. Many members of the rainbow community still feel a lack of social inclusion – this may be due to stigma and old-fashion beliefs. We want to show these people the kindness and compassion in the world, which will hopefully motivate them to reach their full potential.

Do you need to talk to somebody?

QLife is Australia’s first nationally-oriented counselling and referral service for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex (LGBTI). QLife provides nation-wide, early intervention, peer supported telephone and web based services to people of all ages across the full breadth of people’s bodies, genders, relationships, sexualities, and lived experiences.

QLife will enable our communities to work towards our own better health outcomes by providing a place to talk about mental health, relationships, isolation, coming out and a whole host of other concerns. We bring together and enhance the work of our five state-based partner agencies, based in capital cities across Australia.

CALL 1800 184 527

3:00pm to midnight in your state, around Australia, every day

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