February 23, 2017

New Study Finds Gay Youth Suicide Rates Dropped After Gay Marriage Law

Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are four times more likely to attempt suicide in the United States than heterosexual kids. But there's hope. A new study from the pediatric journal JAMA found there is a correlation between states where same-sex marriage was legalized before the Supreme Court decision that made it legal federally and lower rates of LGBT suicide attempts. Results showed a fall in suicide attempts unilaterally for youth ages 15 to 24, but LGBT teens' suicide attempts declined the most.

The investigation compared the 32 states where same-sex marriage was legal to 15 where it was not and found that from 1999 to 2015, the number of high school students' suicide attempts decreased in states where it was legal. According to the report, which describes LGBT youth as sexual minorities, suicide attempts fell by 14 percent for these most at-risk teens. Better still, the suicide attempts for people ages 15 to 24 fell by seven percent in states with legalized marriage.

While the investigation does not explore why there is a correlation or a causation for the decline, it does suggest that a waning social stigma might contribute to the drop. "Legalization of same-sex marriage is also often accompanied by media attention and increased visibility of sexual minorities which is associated with increased social support for the rights of sexual minorities," the study says. "This increased social support could translate into improved familial and peer acceptance of sexual minorities, which has been shown to be associated with improved mental health."
The investigation was limited by means of measurement, as well. Researchers relied on self-reported suicide attempts and did not control for race or socioeconomic class. Without further study, too, the evidence remains inference. More investigations are necessary to determine why and how such a correlation exists.

Despite its constraints, the study's results are particularly important given the uncertainty surrounding the Trump administration's sentiment toward the LGBTQ community. Vice President Mike Pence certainly has a history of restricting LGBTQ rights when he was governor of Indiana. The good news is that this study provides evidence that there is a major benefit to lifting restrictions on LGBTQ rights.

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