The legalisation of same sex marriage has led to a drop in teenage suicide rates, new research has discovered.
The study looked into the impact of the LGBTQ-friendly policy – which has now been signed into law in 35 U.S – states on the suicide rate of over 760,000 students between the years of 1999 and 2015.
Results were then compared to the 15 states that have yet to legalise same-sex marriage, and concluded that teen suicide rates fell by seven per cent among all students, and an incredible 14 per cent across LGB students.
Published in JAMA Pediatrics, the research showed that allowing the marriage at a state level is estimated to reduce suicide attempts by 134,000 per year.
Julia Raifman, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School, said:
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.
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 stigmatized and more hopeful for the future.
The effect on public stigma and perceptions of gay and lesbian marriage can be hugely swayed by policy change, making students feel more accepted and hopeful.
Suicide is the second most common cause of death in people aged 15 to 24 in the United States.
LGB students are at particular risk of suicide after new research revealed that 29 per cent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual high school students reported attempting suicide compared to six per cent of heterosexual teens.
The U.S Health Department has set targets of reducing adolescent suicide rates by ten per cent by 2020, and legalising same-sex marriage has been an effective move towards this goal.
Raifman went on to say:
Policymakers need to be aware that policies on sexual minority rights can have a real effect on the mental health of adolescents.
The policies at the top can dictate in ways both positive and negative what happens further down.
Let’s just hope more steps can be taken to build on these positive steps.