It’s not like we needed another reason to support same-sex marriage. But a new study has shown that since same-sex marriage became legalized in the U.S., there’s been a corresponding drop in teen suicide.
Researchers at John Hopkins University, Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital studied the suicide rate before and after the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S. They found that overall, teen suicide has gone down by seven per cent in areas where same-sex marriage became legal prior to 2015. That number dropped to 14 per cent among nonheterosexual teens, who have a much higher suicide rate than their straight peers, a factor co-author Julia Raifman says partially inspired the research.
“This study was really motivated by evidence that there are large disparities across domains of health that affect LGBT adolescents,” said Raifman. “I was interested in whether larger structural issues were potentially leading to those disparities.”
Raifman hoped the findings would show the devastating effects of discrimination, especially towards youth, and shine a light on the importance of equal rights. “I would hope that policymakers and the public would consider the potential health implications of laws and policies affecting LGBT rights,” she said.
The study included data collected between 1999 to 2015 and looked at 760,000 teens in total, both from states with and without legalized same-sex marriage.
The researchers explained that, as is true with any study, the findings were reliant on how honest people were with their answers, with sexual orientation still a taboo topic in many parts of the world. Plus, the poverty rates in specific states, as well as access to resources for those suffering from depression or discrimination are factors not taken into account in the study. But there’s still a visible connection between same-sex marriage and the prevention of suicide.
“Same-sex marriage policies drive social change among parents, teachers and peers of sexual minority adolescents,” said Raifman. “It is also possible that the campaigns around same-sex marriage policies are responsible for changing the experiences of LGB adolescents.”
In other words, legalizing same-sex marriage means that people have slowly become more accepting of different sexualities, and are willing to talk about it openly. Good news for LGB teens everywhere.