Suicide among gay and lesbian people has dropped in Sweden and Denmark — and a new study suggests that marriage equality is to thank.
The paper, released Thursday in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, showed that suicides have fallen 46 percent among people in same-sex unions, as opposed to 28 percent among different-sex unions, reports Reuters.
Researchers had compared the rates from two time periods: 1989 to 2002 and 2003 to 2016. The study followed 28,000 people in same-sex unions over an average of 11 years.
Both Denmark and Sweden are at the international forefront of advancing LGBTQ rights. Denmark legalized same-sex civil unions in 1989 — becoming the first country in the world to do so — and same-sex marriage 2012. Sweden legalized unions in 1996 and marriage in 2009.
Researchers reasoned that the reduction in societal stigma that comes with marriage equality may account for the drop in deaths. “Legalizing same-sex marriage and other supportive legislative measures — they might actually reduce stigma around sexual minorities,” said Annette Erlangsen, the study's lead author from the Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention.
“Being married is protective against suicide,” Erlangsen concluded.
The study also reinforced past research showing that LGBTQ people are vulnerable to suicide. In both time periods, participants within same-sex relationships were twice as likely to take their own lives than their straight counterparts. Gay and bi men were especially at risk.
In the United States, pro-LGBTQ laws like equal marriage rights have correlated with a decreased suicide rate among LGBTQ young people. States that had approved same-sex marriage prior to Obergefell v. Hodges showed a 7 percent drop, according to a 2017 study.
Transgender and queer youth are still an at-risk group. The Trevor Project, in its inaugural National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, released in June, found that that 39 percent of LGBTQ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months, with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth having seriously considered it.
If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. You can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.