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Marriage equality law linked to fewer teen suicides

JAMA Pediatrics teen suicide

Report published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.

Teen suicide attempts among gay, lesbian and bisexual high school students declined in the U.S. after same-sex marriage became legal, a study found.

The findings show the effect that social policies can have on behaviour, the researchers say.

Laws that have the greatest impact on gay adults may make gay kids feel “more hopeful for the future,” said lead author Julia Raifman, a researcher at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“The measures also could create more tolerance and less bullying, making these teens feel less stigmatized. Those effects could also benefit straight teens but more research is needed to determine how the laws might influence teen behaviour,” Raifman said.

For the study, Raifman and her colleagues analyzed data from more than 700,000 public high school students who participated in government surveys on risky youth behaviour from 1999 through 2015, the year the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.

They were also able to compare data with states that did not enact same-sex marriage laws.

About 230,000 students reported being gay, lesbian or bisexual. The surveys didn’t ask about transgender status. They included questions about suicide attempts, smoking and alcohol or drug use.

Suicide attempts among gay, lesbian and bisexual high school students is down by 14%, twice the 7% drop among all high school students.

The study only included suicide attempts, not deaths.

Columbia University public health researcher, Mark Hatzenbuehler, said that the new work makes an important contribution to identifying how laws limiting gay rights may affect psychological and physical health.

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