Importance: Suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) are major public health problems, and some social groups experience disproportionate STB burden. Studies assessing STB inequities for single identities (eg, gender or sexual orientation) cannot evaluate intersectional differences and do not reflect that the causes of inequities are due to structural-level (vs individual-level) processes.
Objective: To examine differences in STB prevalence at the intersection of gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, and rurality.
Design, setting, and participants: This cross-sectional study used adult data from the 2015-2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), a population-based sample of noninstitutionalized US civilians. Data were analyzed from July 2022 to March 2023.
Main outcomes and measures: Outcomes included past-year suicide ideation, plan, and attempt, each assessed with a single question developed for the NSDUH. Intersectional multilevel analysis of individual heterogeneity and discriminatory accuracy (MAIHDA) models were estimated, in which participants were nested within social strata defined by all combinations of gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, and rurality; outcome prevalence estimates were obtained for each social stratum. Social strata were conceptualized as proxies for exposure to structural forms of discrimination that contribute to health advantages or disadvantages (eg, sexism, racism).
Results: The analytic sample included 189 800 adults, of whom 46.5% were men; 53.5%, women; 4.8%, bisexual; 93.0%, heterosexual; 2.2%, lesbian or gay; 18.8%, Hispanic; 13.9%, non-Hispanic Black; and 67.2%, non-Hispanic White. A total of 44.6% were from large metropolitan counties; 35.5%, small metropolitan counties; and 19.9%, nonmetropolitan counties. There was a complex social patterning of STB prevalence that varied across social strata and was indicative of a disproportionate STB burden among multiply marginalized participants. Specifically, the highest estimated STB prevalence was observed among Hispanic (suicide ideation: 18.1%; 95% credible interval [CrI], 13.5%-24.3%) and non-Hispanic Black (suicide plan: 7.9% [95% CrI, 4.5%-12.1%]; suicide attempt: 3.3% [95% CrI, 1.4%-6.2%]) bisexual women in nonmetropolitan counties.
Conclusions and relevance: In this cross-sectional study, intersectional exploratory analyses revealed that STB prevalence was highest among social strata including multiply marginalized individuals (eg, Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black bisexual women) residing in more rural counties. The findings suggest that considering and intervening in both individual-level (eg, psychiatric disorders) and structural-level (eg, structural discrimination) processes may enhance suicide prevention and equity efforts.