A new study entitled “Acceptance Towards LGBT Persons Is an Independent Protective Factor Against Suicide on a Country Level”, published in the Sexuality Research and Social Policy journal finds low levels of LGB recognition as a significant contributor to increased levels of suicide in a country.
The research studies the link between suicide rates (published by WHO) and the LGB acceptance in 34 OECD countries, categorically finding that a higher level of acceptance produces fewer suicidal deaths of LGB individuals.
Suicide is responsible for 1.4% of all deaths worldwide, particularly affecting those aged 15-19.
Studies carried out in 2018 highlight sexual minorities are at an especially heightened risk. The ‘minority stress framework’ outlines the disparities of mental health deterioration amongst sexual minorities.
Exacerbated stressors experienced by Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual individuals such as lack of social acceptance, lack of community outreach and internalised homophobia leading to feelings of negative self-worth are a significant increase on the everyday stressors incurred by all people.
These added stressors lead to a form of chronic stress prevalent in many suicide cases.
The author of the study Dr Heiner Stuke of Berlin University of Medicine notes. “it is conceivable that a generally negative attitude towards homosexuality would make it difficult to recruit support in the close social environment, which was identified as crucial for the mental health of LGB people.”
In countries where homophobic oppression is more prevalent, so too are other contributing factors such as religiosity, fertility rate, GDP, income inequality and unemployment rate. All of these societal factors traditionally contribute to higher levels of suicide, however only LGB rights were evident predictors of heightened risk.
Dr Stuke continued, “higher LGB acceptance was the only variable significantly related to lower suicide rates in the full model. Socially widespread homophobia could similarly complicate the emergence of perceptible LGB communities, which are a relevant protective factor for mental health.
“Finally, it can be assumed that being continuously confronted with societal homophobia makes it difficult to accept one’s own sexual orientation and thus leads to an internalised homophobia that is associated with poorer mental health status.”
The new research could aid in forming future policy that aims to take into account the quality of life of LGB individuals while further reducing minority stresses leading to suicide.
Dr Stuke said, “[It is shown that] anti-discrimination campaigns to prevent bullying in schools can effectively prevent suicidality in sexual minority youth and it has been shown that the legalisation of same-sex marriages led to a reduction of suicide attempts among adolescents.
“It might be suggested that a public policy targeting stigmatisation of sexual minorities could impact positively on national suicide rates.”