LA Times reports that between 1999 and 2015 while states were changing their state marriage laws the states that adopted same-sex marriage policies saw a decline in suicide attempts by LGBT teens in high school; a group that has a higher suicide rate than their heterosexual peers.
The attempted suicide rate fell by 14% in the year following any state’s adoption of marriage equality, according to this study. LA Times reporter Melissa Healy stated that during this 16-year period marriage equality did more than help those in love: it helped high school teens come to terms with their “sexual minority status.” She wrote that this helped them overcome the stigma that led many to commit suicide.
“Social acceptance conveyed by changes in law appears to be uniquely powerful,” Healy said.
Healy reports that the study found a staggering number. From 1999 to 2015 marriage equality prevented 134,000 fewer teens attempting suicide a year. This study is the first to investigate a relationship between social and legal change, and psychological health of LGBT individuals.
Researchers followed 763,000 students by surveying them regularly for 16 years. The study was designed to detect changes “within a very understudied population of a very understudied phenomenon.”
The study was published with an editorial where Columbia University public health specialist Mark L. Hatzenbuehler acknowledged that marriage equality, or any other factor cannot fully explain a behavior like suicide. He wrote that the study suggests “structural stigma in the form of state laws” represents a factor often overlooked in LGBT youth.