New Study Shows Youth Suicide Rates Lower In States With Marriage Equality Laws

Feb 21, 2017

ROCHESTER (WXXI) - A new study published Monday evaluated the relationship between state same-sex marriage policies and suicide attempts in youth identifying as a sexual minority.

The study out of Johns Hopkins and Boston's Children’s Hospital surveyed over 700,000 youth across the country over the last decade, and saw a 7% reduction in these adolescents thinking about suicide in the states that passed marriage equality laws.

Authors of the study estimate that 7% includes about 100,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual teens.

Suicide rates in sexual minority youth have disproportionately been higher than in their straight identifying peers.

Dr. Katherine Greenberg is the director of Gender Health Services at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital and says a theory called the minority stress model could explain these higher numbers.

"Stigma and oppression that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth see in their communities and their states can lead to increased levels of stress and worse mental health, including thoughts of suicide, depression, and anxiety."

Greenberg said the relationship between mental health and public policy is important.

"Legalization of things that create equality and create a sense of safety for people in vulnerable populations like lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth; they feel safer, they feel protected and we can see the study showing that in their mental health outcomes."

Greenberg said the idea that a system wide, structural policy change like marriage equality can have this effect is exciting and encouraging.

The study was done between 2004 and 2015, during which researchers compared suicide rates in the 32 states that passed marriage equality with the 15 states that did not.

Greenberg says she is looking forward to future studies now that marriage equality has passed nationwide.