LGBTQ+ suicide rates fell sharply in at least two countries which have legalized same-sex marriage, according to a new report.
A new study conducted by the Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention in partnership with researchers from Stockholm University concluded that rates of completed suicides fell in Denmark and Sweden after they enacted marriage equality legislation. Sweden became the seventh country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2009, and Denmark followed suit three years later.
Researchers surveyed two time periods — 1989 to 2002 and 2003 to 2016 — and found that the number of people in same-sex relationships who had taken their own lives dropped by 46 percent. In comparison, the suicide rate for people in heterosexual relationships fell a significantly lower 28 percent.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health on Thursday, tracked 28,000 couples to reach its conclusion.
According to lead author Annette Erlangsen, the reason for the dramatic drop has to do with the way that marriage increases systems of social support for LGBTQ+ individuals, which can help combat feelings of isolation, depression, and that others don’t accept one’s identity.
“Being married is protective against suicide,” Erlangsen told Reuters.
However, marriage is in no way a cure-all for critical mental health issues — for either queer or straight people — and should in no way be treated as such. Erlangsen told the Copenhagen-based newspaper Dagbladet Information that the rate of attempted and completed suicides remains “worryingly high, especially considering that the suicide rate may be higher among non-married people.”
There remains reason to be optimistic, though: A study published by The Economist earlier this year showed that global suicide rates are down 29 percent since 2000.
Paradoxically, many of the countries with the largest decreases in the overall suicide rate are nations where same-sex marriage has yet to be legalized, including Russia and Japan. Meanwhile, the United States — where marriage equality has been the law of the land since 2015 — saw its suicide rate skyrocket by 30 percent over the same period.
In addition to the easy availability of firearms in the U.S., researchers cited several reasons for this phenomenon: lack of support for military veterans and the elderly, as well as high rates of drug use among white men without a college degree.
Currently, 30 out of 195 countries in the world recognize same-sex unions. The majority are located in Europe, South America, and North America.