Application of an intersectional framework to understanding the association of disability and sexual orientation with suicidal ideation among Oregon Teens

César Higgins Tejera, Willi Horner-Johnson, Elena Andresen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Suicide is the second leading cause of death among U.S. youth. Prior research has found that disability and sexual orientation are each independently associated with suicide risk. However, most analyses regarding sexual orientation or disability in relation to teenagers’ health have isolated the effects of these identities via multiple regression models. That approach assumes there is no multiplicative or synergistic effect between the two identities. Objective: To examine the association between suicidal ideation and the intersection of disability and sexual orientation. Methods: Cross-sectional data from the 2015 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey were analyzed using Poisson regression analysis with robust variance to estimate the relationship between the intersection of disability and sexual orientation and youth reports of suicidal ideation. We calculated three measures of interaction: 1) the excess risk due to interaction (RERI); 2) the proportion attributable to interaction (AP); and 3) the synergy index (SI). Results: Sexual minority teenagers with disabilities had higher risk of suicidal ideation (adjusted relative risk [ARR] = 2.82, 95% CI: 2.47–3.21) with respect to heterosexual teenagers without disabilities. The risk was also elevated, to a lesser degree, for heterosexual youth with disabilities (ARR = 1.97, 95% CI: 1.78–2.19) and LGB youth without disabilities (ARR = 2.17, 95% CI: 1.95–2.42) with respect to the reference group. Our measures of interaction were indicative of a synergistic effect between disability and sexual orientation. Conclusions: Our findings suggest the combination of disability and minority sexual orientation may be associated with compounded negative experiences that could exacerbate the risk of suicide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDisability and Health Journal
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019



  • Adolescent
  • Disabled persons
  • LGB persons
  • Suicidal ideation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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