A new study from the Johns Hopkins University shows that legalizing same-sex marriage can help reduce suicide rates among high school students and LGBT adolescents. The study has been published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal.
Overall, the researchers have found that same-sex marriage policies is associated with over 134,000 fewer adolescent suicide attempts annually. These policies help alleviate the stigma surrounding sexual orientation.
“These are high school students so they aren’t getting married any time soon, for the most part,” explains the study leader Julia Raifman, ScD, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “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.”
The study involved the analysis of Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System data. the data include accounted 32 of the 35 states that enacted same-sex marriage policies between Jan. 1, 2004 and Jan. 1, 2015, the press release states. The study also took into account states that did not allow same-sex marriage.
Overall, same-sex marriage reduced a total of seven percent in suicide attempts among students in high school. The effect was more apparent in sexual minorities. In other words, it reduced suicide attempts among gay and bisexual students by 14 percent.
On the other hands, the states that did not enact this marriage did not experience a reduction in suicide attempts. However, the researchers cannot say what exactly caused this. It could be the campaign supporting the marriage legalization or the laws themselves.
The positive results became present a year after the laws were enacted. However, the state that would only pass it two years later did not experienced a reduction in suicide attempts before it gets passed, probably because there is no campaign about it during the time of waiting.
Legalizing same-sex marriage could be one of the effective ways to reduce suicide cases. Additionally, taking away rights and worsening the stigma could also negatively impact suicide rates.
“We can all agree that reducing adolescent suicide attempts is a good thing, regardless of our political views, “points out Raifman. “Policymakers need to be aware that policies on sexual minority rights can have a real effect on the mental health of adolescents. The policies at the top can dictate in ways both positive and negative what happens further down.”