Category: Suicide and Self-Injury

Symposium

Happiness and Life Satisfaction in the Relationship Between Sexual Orientation and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury in Young Adults

Saturday, November 18
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom E, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Self-Injury | L / G / B / T | Resilience
Presentation Type: Symposium

Research Aims: Evidence suggests individuals identifying as sexual minorities have increased rates of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) compared to the heterosexual population (Goldbach & Gibbs, 2015). While many studies within this population have focused on risk factors for engaging in more frequent NSSI, there is limited information on protective factors that may help reduce engagement in NSSI. Possible protective factors are general happiness, life satisfaction, and resilience (Garisch & Wilson, 2015; In-Albon et al., 2015; Kress et al., 2015). The current study had two aims: 1) to compare NSSI frequency in heterosexual and sexual minority young adults and 2) to evaluate happiness, life satisfaction, and resilience as mediators in the relationship between sexual orientation and NSSI frequency. Methods: The sample included 975 undergraduates (80% white), with a mean age of 18.96 (SD=1.25).  The majority were female (72%), 27% were male, and 1% identified as transgendered or other. Sexual orientation was assessed with two questions; the first asked participants to select a category (i.e., straight (89%), gay/lesbian (2.4%), bisexual (5.1%), pansexual (1.3%), other (1.1%), or not sure (1%)), and the second asked participants to rate themselves on a scale from 1 (attracted to other sex only) to 7 (attracted to same sex only). To compare prevalence rates, the category item was used to divide participants into heterosexual (n=861) and sexual minority groups (n=103). Participants also completed questionnaires assessing happiness, life satisfaction, resilience, and NSSI behaviors. Results: Overall, chi-square analyses found the sexual minority group to be significantly more likely to report lifetime history of NSSI (53%) than the heterosexual group (18%).  Sexual minority groups with exceptionally high prevalence of NSSI were pansexual (83%) and questioning (88%).  Compared to the heterosexual group, sexual minorities reported significantly higher frequencies of NSSI, and lower scores on happiness, life satisfaction, and resilience.  A multiple bootstrap mediation analysis found happiness and life satisfaction (but not resilience) to significantly mediate the relationship between the continuous measure of sexual orientation and NSSI frequency. In general, as sexual orientation moved toward same-sex only, happiness, resilience, and life satisfaction decreased, while NSSI frequency increased. Conclusion: Results confirm the alarming prevalence of self-injury and increased NSSI frequency among young people who identify as non-heterosexual, as well as highlighting potential factors that may mitigate risk for NSSI in this high-risk group.

Amy Brausch

Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences
Western Kentucky University

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Happiness and Life Satisfaction in the Relationship Between Sexual Orientation and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury in Young Adults



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