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University at Buffalo researchers analyzed data from more than 31,000 American teens, aged 14 to 18, who took part in surveys in 2009 and 2011.
Among healthy-weight boys, 3.5 percent of those with no history of sexual assault attempted suicide within the past year, compared with more than 33 percent of those who had been sexually assaulted, the investigators found.
The percentage was also about 33 percent for overweight boys who had been sexually assaulted, which shows that weight alone is not a significant risk factor for suicide attempts among teen boys, the researchers said.
Stigma, shame and lack of support are among the possible reasons for the higher rate of attempted suicides among teen boys who are sexually assaulted, said study author Laura Anderson, a psychologist and assistant professor at the University at Buffalo School of Nursing in New York.
"The stigma is often not addressed; it's a silent issue in society," she said in a university news release. "Very rarely does programming address boys. It's often presumed to be an issue for girls. The results highlight the need to educate the public and develop preventive programming and support for male and female sexual assault survivors."
Among healthy-weight girls, 5.8 percent of those with no history of sexual assault attempted suicide in the past year, compared with about 27 percent of those who had been victims of sexual assault, the study found.
Among overweight girls, 8.2 percent of those with no history of sexual assault attempted suicide, compared with more than 26 percent of those who had been sexually assaulted, the findings showed.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among American teens.
The study was published online in the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: University at Buffalo, news release, April 13, 2015