Suicide Rates Fall After Same-Sex Marriage Legalised In Sweden And Denmark
The legalisation of same sex marriage led to significantly reduced suicide rates amongst LGBTQ+ individuals in Sweden and Denmark, according to a study.
Suicide rates among those in same sex relationships dropped notably during two time periods, 2003 to 2016 and 1989 to 2002; partially attributed to the reduced stigmatisation of sexual minorities within these countries.
However, despite this progress, researchers still reported a ‘worryingly high’ number of suicide death amongst LGBTQ+ individuals, who were found to be as twice as likely to die by suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.
Both Sweden and Denmark are regarded to be progressive nations in terms of promoting LGBTQ+ rights with Denmark becoming the first country on earth to permit same-sex civil unions in 1989. Sweden followed in 1995.
Sweden became one of the first countries to legalise gay marriage in 2009, with Denmark following closely behind in 2012.
The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Health, was conducted by the Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention and researchers from Stockholm University, who used data from national population registers.
Researchers compared data from 1989 to 2002 and 2003 to 2016, and looked at suicides of those in same-sex couples at the time when civil partnerships were allowed, as well as when same-sex marriage was legalised.
Deaths by suicide among those in same-sex partnerships fell by 46% during both time periods, compared to 28% amongst heterosexual couples.
These figures have been partly attributed to better understanding of mental health issues, however researchers also believe same-sex marriage – and the subsequent reduced stigma – has made for a substantial contribution.
According to the study:
With the passage of time, legalisation of same-sex marriage and the expansion of rights and protections to same-sex couples, those minorities have become much more accepted in the Nordic countries and elsewhere.
This might have decreased the stigmatisation, psychological stress and level of distress experienced by sexual minority people, thereby reducing their suicide risk.
Annette Erlangsen, from the Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention, told Reuters:
Being married is protective against suicide.
[…] Legalizing same-sex marriage and other supportive legislative measures – they might actually reduce stigma around sexual minorities.
Sadly, despite this notable decrease, same-sex married people still died by suicide at over twice the rate of those in heterosexual couples during both time periods.
Going forward, researchers have emphasised the ‘critical need for better understanding of suicide risk and protective factors in sexual minority populations’.
These findings reportedly support existing research from other countries that indicate a higher incidence of suicide attempts among those from the LGBTQ+ community.
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