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  • November 14, 2019

Legalizing same-sex marriage leads to big drop in gay suicide rate

A gay couple celebrates their wedding day

Allowing same-sex couples to marry leads to a significant drop in the rates of suicide in gay and lesbian people. That’s the findings of a major survey carried out in Sweden and Denmark.

Both European countries were early adopters of same-sex marriage (Denmark legalized it in 1989), which means researchers were able to analyze a large data pool. The study tracked more than 28,000 people in same-sex unions for an average of 11 years.

They looked at the suicide rates among those entering same-sex marriages between 1989 and 2002, and then between 2003-2016. The suicide rate fell by 46% between the two samples.

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It’s been noted in other studies that married people – of all sexualities – are less likely to die by suicide, and the suicide rate in both countries has fallen in recent years. In the same study, the suicide rate for those in opposite-sex marriages fell by 28% between – still significant but not as great as the figure for those in same-sex relationships.

Related: Gay men who get married live longer, but not lesbians

In their conclusion, the researchers note: “Although suicide rates in the general populations of Denmark and Sweden have been decreasing in recent decades, the rate for those living in same-sex marriage was declining at a steeper pace, which has not been noted previously.”

Although some other factors may be at play (for example, more effective treatment for HIV has also led to a drop in suicide among gay men) they believe that legalizing same-sex marriage has helped to decrease prejudice towards gay and bisexual people.

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“Being married is protective against suicide,” said Annette Erlangsen of the Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention and one of the study’s co-authors.

“Legalizing same-sex marriage and other supportive legislative measures – they might actually reduce stigma around sexual minorities,” she told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

This isn’t the first study to suggest a link between marriage and a drop in LGBTQ suicides. A Harvard University study in 2017 found that suicide attempts by gay, lesbian and bisexual US High School students dropped 14% in those states with legal same-sex marriage.

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The Swedish and Danish study wasn’t all good news, though. People in same-sex marriages were still 2.3 times as likely to kill themselves as those in opposite-sex marriages – with gay men more likely than any other group. Tackling stigma and prejudice still has some way to go.

Related: The Trevor Project launches 24/7 chat and text services

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