Teen suicide attempts fell as same-sex marriage was legalized

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Analyzing data from 1999 to 2015, researchers found a 7 percent reduction in suicide attempts among high school students in the 32 states that legalized same-sex marriage. | THINKSTOCK.COM IMAGES

Fewer U.S. teens attempted suicide in states where same-sex marriage was legal in the years leading up to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling upholding gay marriage, according to a new study.

Analyzing data from 1999 to 2015, researchers found a 7 percent reduction in suicide attempts among high school students in the 32 states that legalized same-sex marriage. There was a 14 percent decline among students categorized as sexual minorities, specifically gays, lesbians and bisexuals, according to the study.

More than 29 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual high school students nationwide reported attempting suicide within the past 12 months, according to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System data, whose long-term data researchers relied on for the study. That’s compared with about 6 percent of heterosexual students.

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

The study, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, didn’t prove the drop in teen suicide attempts was caused by the implementation of same-sex marriage policies but suggested an association between the two factors. Researchers analyzed data from more than 700,000 adolescents across 47 states from 1999 and 2015, of which 231,413 identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual. The data didn’t track students who identified as queer or transgender.

Researchers acknowledged the study was limited in that they relied on self-reported data from students. They also noted they couldn’t account for socioeconomic status, religious affiliation, acceptance of sexual minorities and other factors outside of the legalization of same-sex marriage.

“There is a need for further research to understand the association between sexual minority rights, stigma and sexual minority health,” the study stated.

Steph Solis, USA TODAY

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