Study Associates Same-Sex Marriage Legalization With A Drop In Suicide Attempts Among LGBTQ Youth

"There may be something about having equal rights...that makes students feel more hopeful for the future.



Same-sex marriage may no longer inspire the kind of heated debate it used to in decades past, but if there's further argument to be made in defense of the Supreme Court's decision to legalize it, it could be in the remarkable findings of a new study. A group of researchers from John Hopkins University's public health school suggested that legalizing marriage equality at state-level led to a significant decrease in suicide attempts among high school students — particularly among LGBTQ teenagers. 

Published in JAMA Pediatrics, the study compared states that passed same-sex marriage laws before the Supreme Court's ruling in June 2015, and states that didn't. Researchers estimated that states that changed their policies to become pro-marriage equality were associate with 134,000 fewer adolescent suicide attempts a year, whereas the rate remained the same in states that didn't pass same-sex marriage laws.

According to the Center for Disease Control, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth in grades 7-12 were more than twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to have attempted suicide. That rate is even higher among transgender youth.

singh_lens / Shutterstock
singh_lens / Shutterstock

The study, researchers say, can perhaps shed more light on how social policies can effect behavior. 

Julia Raifman, who led the study, indicated that the legalization of same-sex marriage can change how people perceive same-sex relationships. 

"These are high school students so they aren't getting married any time soon, for the most part," she said in a press release. "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."

Cover image via Glynnis Jones / Shutterstock

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