ATLANTA — Suicides have become the second-leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24 in the United States. But researchers say the legalization of same-sex marriage may be a source of hope for some teens.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 30 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual high school students reported attempting suicide, compared to 6 percent of heterosexual students.
A study looked at data from 47 states before and after the legalization of same-sex marriage and found a 7 percent reduction in the number of high school students who reported attempting suicide after the policy change.
“The effect was concentrated among adolescents who were sexual minorities,” researchers said in the study published in JAMA Pediatrics.
“Although it is unclear what drives greater rates of suicide attempts among adolescents who are sexual minorities, prior evidence suggests several potential mechanisms, including stigma,” the authors of the study wrote.
“Stigma based on sexual orientation is associated with mental distress, anxiety and depression, and greater rates of suicide attempts.”
“Legalization of same-sex marriage is also often accompanied by media attention and increased visibility of sexual minorities, which is associated with increased social support for the rights of sexual minorities,” the study said.
“This increased social support could translate into improved familial and peer acceptance of sexual minorities, which has been shown to be associated with improved mental health.”
The researchers used data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, which is supported by the CDC.
Researchers analyzed data from 762,678 adolescents who participated in the YRBSS in 47 states from 1999 to 2015.
“Our study documents that implementation of same-sex marriage policies was associated with a significant decrease in the proportion of high school students attempting suicide in 32 states that implemented same-sex marriage policies by January 1, 2015, relative to 15 states that did not implement same-sex marriage policies by that date,” researchers said.
“After same-sex marriage laws were implemented, the proportion of high school students reporting suicide attempts in the past year decreased by 0.6 percentage points, equivalent to a 7 percent decline.”