A new study demonstrates that marriage equality has given gay kids a brighter outlook. There is also the possibility that greater tolerance reduced bullying and made gay kids feel safer.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for all teens in the United States. Gay, lesbian and bisexual kids attempt suicide at over four times the rate of heterosexual teens.
In a study published Monday to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics research found declines in states that
passed laws allowing gays to marry before the Supreme Court made it
legal nationwide. The results cannot differentiate between causation and correlation but
researchers said policymakers should be aware of the measures’ potential
benefits for youth mental health.
The researchers analyzed data on more than 700,000 public high school students who participated in government surveys on risky youth behavior from 1999 through 2015, the year the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.
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.
In 32 states that enacted same-sex marriage laws during the study, suicide attempts dropped 7 percent among all students and 14 percent among gay kids after the laws were passed. There was no change in suicide attempts in states without those laws.
The study only included suicide attempts, not deaths. I am unable to speculate why the percentage of gay kids is so much higher than average in this study. Nor can I ascertain whether or not this had an effect on the results. I am also at a loss to explain the drop in suicide among straight kids in those same states. I have emailed some questions to the lead investigator at Johns Hopkins and will update this post if the answers seem important to understanding the study.