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Research suggests that lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adolescents have a higher risk of suicidal behaviours than their heterosexual peers, but little is known about specific risk factors.To assess sexual orientation as a risk factor for suicidal behaviours, and to identify other risk factors among LGB adolescents and young adults.A systematic search was made of six databases up to June 2015, including a grey literature search. Population-based longitudinal studies considering non-clinical populations aged 12–26 years and assessing being LGB as a risk factor for suicidal behaviour compared with being heterosexual, or evaluating risk factors for suicidal behaviour within LGB populations, were included. Random effect models were used in meta-analysis.Sexual orientation was significantly associated with suicide attempts in adolescents and youths (OR = 2.26, 95% CI 1.60–3.20). Gay or bisexual men were more likely to report suicide attempts compared with heterosexual men (OR = 2.21, 95% CI 1.21–4.04). Based on two studies, a non-significant positive association was found between depression and suicide attempts in LGB groups.Sexual orientation is associated with a higher risk of suicide attempt in young people. Further research is needed to assess completed suicide, and specific risk factors affecting the LGB population.