In 2015, supporters of gay marriage all over the US had reason to rejoice, as same sex marriage was legalized nationwide. However, that passing by the Supreme Court may have caused another reason to celebrate, one that’s less visible. A study has shown that the legalization of same sex marriage can actually lead to lower suicide rates among LGBT teens.
The study was done by John Hopkins University. It compared the rates of teen suicide in states where same-sex marriage was legal, with states where it was not. The finding: states that allowed it corresponded with a 7% drop in overall suicide rates overall. When filtering it for suicide attempts among LGBT adolescents alone, the number jumps to 14%.
The Researchers say that the findings show the impact of policies on social behavior.
Julia Raifman, a post-doctoral fellow of the Department of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School, explains it further:
“These are highschool students, so they aren’t getting married any time soon,” she said, “Still, permitting same-sex marriage reduces structural stigma associated with sexual orientation. There may be something about having equal rights – even if they have no immediate plans to take advantage of them – that makes students feel less stigmatized and more hopeful for the future.”
Raifman and her fellow researchers gathered data through the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. That’s a survey supported by the government’s Center for Disease, Control and Prevention. The data captured went as far back as 1999.
While suicide rates among LGBT students remain much higher than those of heterosexual students, the legalization of same-sex marriage has helped curb the numbers somewhat. In total, state-level policies which allowed same-sex marriage corresponded to 134,000 less suicide attempts per year.
The Results Of Bullying
LGBT youth are often susceptible to bullying due to their sexual orientation, according to StopBullying.gov. They become more likely to “skip school, smoke, use alcohol or drugs, or engage in other risky behaviors”. Due to the bullying, the possibilities that such teens are pushing into thinking about, or attempting suicide, more than doubles.
The study indicates the legalization of gay marriage could break down the stigma associated with it. This, in turn, could reduce the “cause” behind bullying, thus reducing suicide rates.
“We can all agree that reducing adolescent suicide attempts is a good thing,” Raifman says, adding, “Policymakers need to be aware that policies on sexual minority rights can have a real effect on the mental health of adolescents.”