Same-Sex Marriage Policies and Adolescent Suicide Attempts

April 21, 2017

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

An analysis of Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System data from 1999 to 2015 revealed that state policies permitting same-sex marriage were associated with a 7 percent decrease in the proportion of high school students who attempted suicide. This reduction in suicide attempts was primarily due to a relative 14 percent decline in attempts among students who identified as sexual minorities. The decline in suicide attempts continued for at least two years after same-sex marriage was legalized. The analysis compared data from before and after the implementation of policies permitting same-sex marriage (1) in states that permitted same-sex marriage and (2) to data from states that did not permit same-sex marriage.

The analysis revealed that trends in suicide attempts among young people were relatively unchanging and similar in both groups of states before same-sex marriage policies began to change. Thus, the study results cannot be explained by an existing downward trend in adolescent attempt rates.

The authors suggested that their analysis provides “evidence that implementation of same-sex marriage policies reduced adolescent suicide attempts.” They also noted that more than 20 percent of adolescents who identified as a sexual minority attempted suicide even after their state legalized same-sex marriage. This suggests that suicide prevention efforts for sexual minority youth should remain a priority in states that allow same-sex marriage, as well as in states that do not.

Raifman, J., Moscoe, E., Austin, S. B., & McConnell, M. (2017). Difference-in-differences analysis of the association between state same-sex marriage policies and adolescent suicide attempts. JAMA Pediatrics, 171(4), 350–356.