States which legalise same-sex marriage see drop in LGBT suicide rates, study finds

Equal marriage is thought to result in reduced stigma and social isolation for young LGBT people, meaning they experience fewer mental health issues

Siobhan Fenton
Social Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 22 February 2017 09:34 GMT

Suicide rates drop in places which legalise same-sex marriage, a study has found.

Research conducted by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analysed suicide prevalence rates for high school students among US states, to compare those which had legalised marriage for same-sex couples and those which haven’t. It analysed states which had passed marriage equality legislation at different points in time and the corresponding impact on suicide prevalence.

Although marriage equality was legalised by the Supreme Court in 2015, some individual states had previously passed their own legislation locally to do so.

They found when states did pass the legislation, students in that state were 7 per cent less likely to try to take their own lives.

The largest decline in attempts was noted among student who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

It has been suggested that this is due to LGBT students feeling accepted by their communities and thereby having better mental health. LGBT people have considerably higher rates of mental health diagnoses, with depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation, than heterosexual people, which is thought to be due to the emotional and psychological toll of social stigma and prejudice.

However, the figures do not necessarily mean that correlation equals causation. For instance, states which are more liberal might be more likely to legalise marriage equality whilst also pursuing more progressive policies on mental health support throughout the state.

The study’s lead author Julia Raifman said the research should be a starting point for more detailed exploration of the issue. She said: “I think it is good for parents, teachers and medical professionals to be aware of the disparity and try to address it.

“I think there is a need for further research. A lot of studies look at interventions for suicide attempts, but none have really focused on LGBT interventions.”

On 26 June 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a legal right to marry throughout the country. Previously, a number of states had passed their own legislation to that effect but it was not uniformly adopted around the US.

Same-sex marriage is legal throughout the UK, with the exception of Northern Ireland. It became legal in England and Wales in 2014, followed by Scotland in December 2014.

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