Same-Sex Marriage Legalization Linked to Teen Suicide Drop

Teen girls holding handsAdolescent suicide attempts declined after same-sex marriage was legalized. The biggest drop occurred among teens who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Nationwide, the suicide rate is the highest it has been in 30 years, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Suicides increased by 2% every year beginning in 2006. By 2014, suicide claimed 42,773 lives, compared to 29,199 in 1999. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24.

Does Same-Sex Marriage Decrease Suicide Among Teens?

The study analyzed data from the state-level Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, collected from 1999 through 2015. Data from the survey is weighted to be representative of students from each state. The study included details on more than 700,000 public high school students, including 230,000 sexual minority teens.

During the study, 32 states passed legislation allowing same-sex marriage. In those states, there was a 7% drop in teen suicide attempts. Among lesbian, gay, or bisexual teens, suicide attempts dropped 14%. States that did not permit same-sex marriage saw no change in suicide attempts.

The study did not directly test for a causal link between same-sex marriage and suicide risk. Researchers only looked at suicide attempts, not deaths, so it is unclear how same-sex marriage legality affects death by suicide.

The study’s authors say their research points to a link between gay rights legislation and teen mental health, suggesting legislation that limits LGBTQ+ rights might have a negative effect on adolescent mental and physical health.

How Same-Sex Relationships Affect Children’s Mental Health

Other studies have found same-sex marriage is either beneficial or neutral to children’s mental health. A 2015 analysis of previous research found an overwhelming consensus that same-sex parenting does not harm children’s mental health.

A study of female same-sex parents found no differences between their children and the children of different-sex parents. Same-sex parents, however, reported higher levels of parenting stress.

Acceptance of same-sex relationships has increased, with 49% of all adults and 63% of millennials saying same-sex relationships are “not wrong at all.”


  1. Raifman, J., ScD, Moscoe, E., MA, Austin, S. B., ScD, & McConnell, M., PhD. (2017). Difference-in-differences analysis of the association between state same-sex marriage policies and adolescent suicide attempts. JAMA Pediatrics. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.4529
  2. Tanner, L. (2017, February 20). Teen suicide attempts fell as same-sex marriage became legal. Retrieved from

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  • rhonda

    February 22nd, 2017 at 11:34 AM

    This actually made me smile so big when i saw this. I have known for so long that my son was gay, probably before he even recognized it himself. And it always scared me knowing that the world is a harsh place for teens especially who are afraid of what they are beginning to see as their true selves and how they are treated by other people who automatically don’t like them because they don’t conform to their idea of normalcy.
    Seeing that this is now a lot more accepted makes me have hope that possibly one day he will be confident enough in his own skin to not really care about what other people say about him or think of him. Until that time, I am happy at the small steps of progress as they continue.

  • Nola

    February 24th, 2017 at 11:00 AM

    This has gone a long way toward teaching self acceptance as well as self awareness. There isn’t the fear and doubt about coming out as there once was because we now see that people are becoming more open to what a relationship looks like, that it doesn’t have to prescribe to one set of rules only.
    Things like this are meant to be ever growing and evolving, fluid, and that can mean very positive steps forward for those who are just learning the real meaning of discovering who they are and what they stand for.

  • ren

    February 26th, 2017 at 1:31 PM

    I am still not all that comfortable coming out to my mom and dad because they are ultra conservative and I think that they would be very disappointed if they knew that I was gay.
    I think that they would say that they still love me but they would encourage me to go to church and seek forgiveness and maybe even try to get me into conversion therapy.
    This is not even a conversation that I feel like I can have with them if I want to preserve any kind of relationship with them.

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