A recent study from JAMA Pediatrics found that the legalization of same-sex marriage was associated with a significant decrease in the rate of suicide attempts by high school students.
Based on data collected by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System between 1999 and 2015, the researchers analyzed data from more than 750,000 adolescents and found that after laws permitting same-sex marriage were passed, the percent of high school students reporting suicide attempts decreased by 7 percent. The researchers looked at data from 47 states in the U.S.
The decrease was concentrated among students who identified as LGBT, an effect that works to reaffirm the fact that state-sponsored stigmatization of sexual minorities has had deleterious effects on the health of those populations.
Suicide is the second most common cause of death among young adults aged 15 to 24. Out of those adolescents at an already increased risk, sexual minorities are at an even higher risk, with 29 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual high school students reporting suicide attempts in 2015 compared to 6 percent of heterosexual students.
Previous studies have indicated an association between same-sex marriage legalization and reduction in stress-related health conditions among LGBT individuals, likely stemming from both the direct impact of increased access to health, financial, and legal benefits, and the indirect impact of the increased social support that can accompany policy change.
The researchers of this study maintain that the results do not allow them “to understand the mechanisms through which implementation of same-sex marriage policies reduced adolescent suicide attempts.” However, the discovery of an association between these concepts can serve as a basis for further research into the relationships between health and stigma of minority populations.