Same-sex marriage policy linked to drop in teen suicide attempts

Feb 24, 2017

By Maarten Rikken

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people between the ages of 15 and 24, and for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning students the risk is much higher. In a new JAMA Pediatricsstudy, Julia Raifman and colleagues, report that state-enacted laws that legalize same-sex marriage were linked to a significant reduction in the rate of suicide attempts by high school students.

We spoke with Julia Raifman of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health about the work.

ResearchGate: What motivated this study?

Julia Raifman: The study was motivated by evidence that lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents experience a number of health disparities, and I wondered whether unequal rights might be associated with them. I chose to focus on adolescent suicide attempts as one of the most extreme health disparities. In our study, 29 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning students reported attempting suicide in the past year, relative to six percent of heterosexual adolescents.

RG: What were your results?

Raifman: We found that state same-sex marriage policies were associated with a lower proportion of adolescents attempting suicide. We found that there was a seven percent reduction in suicide attempts. We calculated that this would be equivalent to more than 134,000 fewer adolescents attempting suicide each year based on the population of the United States.

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