Same-sex marriage legalisation linked to fewer youth suicide attempts

New York: Legalising same-sex marriage at state level in the US reduced an estimated 134,000 suicide attempts per year in high school students as well as among gay, lesbian and bisexual adolescents, suggesting that social policies can affect behaviour, researchers claim.

The findings, according to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, showed that 29 per cent of gay, lesbian and bisexual high school students reported attempting suicide in the previous year as compared to six per cent of heterosexual teenagers.

“These are high school students so they aren’t getting married any time soon, for the most part. Still, permitting same-sex marriage reduces structural stigma associated with sexual orientation,” said lead author Julia Raifman, postdoctoral student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland, US.

“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 stigmatised and more hopeful for the future,” Raifman added.

For the study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the team compared data from 1999 through 2015 — including almost 763,000 adolescents in 32 US states that passed laws allowing same-sex marriage and 15 states which did not implement the laws, before the Supreme Court made it legal nationwide.

The results showed a 7 per cent reduction in suicide attempts among high school students in the 32 states that legalised same-sex marriage.

Further, there was a 14 per cent decline among gay, lesbian and bisexual adolescents.

On the other hand, the states that did not implement same-sex marriage saw no reduction in suicide attempts among high school students.

“It’s not easy to be an adolescent, and for adolescents who are just realising they are sexual minorities, it can be even harder — that’s what the data on disparities affecting gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents tell us,” Raifman said.

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