NEW YORK, April 29, 2011 ( – Teens who self-identify as homosexual are five times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to attempt suicide, according to a study released last week.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics online on April 18, was conducted in order to determine whether living in a gay friendly social environment affected the risk of a teen identifying as homosexual committing suicide. It found that teens in “unsupportive” social environments were 20 percent more at risk of attempting suicide than those in “supportive” environments.

“This study documents an association between an objective measure of the social environment and suicide attempts among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth,” concludes the study abstract, adding that the results “have important implications for the development of policies and interventions to reduce sexual orientation–related disparities in suicide attempts.”

But Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council pointed out that the takeaway finding from the study is not that gay teens are marginally less likely to commit suicide in a “supportive” environment, but that overall gay teens are so many times more likely to commit suicide than their non-gay peers – “a difference that far overwhelms any difference caused by the ‘social environment.’”

The study gathered self-report data from nearly 32,000 grade 11 students in Oregon. The findings also revealed that 21.5 percent of the gay teens surveyed reported suicidal tendencies, while only 4.2 percent of straight teens did the same.

The study author, Mark Hatzenbuehler of Columbia University, told Reuters, however, that no studies have been able to pinpoint the root cause of suicidal tendencies in gay teens.

From a psychological point of view, the study appears to leave open many questions: Cornell University psychologist Dr. Ritch Savin-Williams suggested to Reuters that gay teens may report as suicidal based on their own stereotype.

“We have given them the message that they are suicidal,” said Savin-Williams, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Sprigg, however, said that the “logical take-away” of the study might not suit the author’s original intention.

“The most effective way of reducing teen suicide attempts is not to create a ‘positive social environment’ for the affirmation of homosexuality. Instead, it would be to discourage teens from self-identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual,” he said.