A new study published in the JAMA Pediatrics linked state-level changes in marriage laws with suicide attempts among LGB teens.
Using data from a nationwide health survey of close to a million American youth from 1999 to 2015, researchers at Johns Hopkins University and at Harvard University examined the link between changes in reported attempts at suicide among LGB teens and changes in marriage laws in their states. The study used several statistical tools to compare changes across states where multiple factors are affecting suicide rates, like poverty and substance abuse.
The researchers found that in the year following the adoption of same-sex marriage, a state showed a 14% drop in suicide attempts among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and questioning youth. This works out to 134,000 fewer teen suicide attempts per year nationwide.
Columbia University public health specialist Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, in an editorial published along with the study, wrote, “structural stigma — in the form of state laws — represents a potentially consequential but thus far largely overlooked.”
The idea is that LGB and questioning youth are coming to terms with their status as part of an often-hated minority. same-sex marriage, while beneficial for couples who want access to that institution, also sends a signal of acceptance to young people.