Does allowing homosexual marriage prevent suicide?

The article below implies that it does -- even though no suicide statistics among homosexuals were examined.  It looks at reports of suicide attempts among homosexuals and concludes that such reports were slightly less frequent among people who live in States that allow homosexual marriage.  The effect was however almost entirely due to the homosexuals in the sample.  It was basically only homosexuals in right to marry states who were less likely to report suicide attempts.

There are many problems with the study, not least being the notorious unreliability of self-reports. I am feeling in a charitable mood, however, so I will allow that the finding is an an accurate and reliable one.  What inferences might we draw from that?

The first thing to note is that States with homo-marriage laws are likely to be more tolerant and acceptant of homosexuals generally.  So the finding boils down to saying that homosexuals feel less stressed in places where they are better accepted. That should surprise no-one:  A bit like proving grass is green

Difference-in-Differences Analysis of the Association Between State Same-Sex Marriage Policies and Adolescent Suicide Attempts

Julia Raifman et al.


Importance:  Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents between the ages of 15 and 24 years. Adolescents who are sexual minorities experience elevated rates of suicide attempts.

Objective:  To evaluate the association between state same-sex marriage policies and adolescent suicide attempts.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  This study used state-level Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) data from January 1, 1999, to December 31, 2015, which are weighted to be representative of each state that has participation in the survey greater than 60%. A difference-in-differences analysis compared changes in suicide attempts among all public high school students before and after implementation of state policies in 32 states permitting same-sex marriage with year-to-year changes in suicide attempts among high school students in 15 states without policies permitting same-sex marriage. Linear regression was used to control for state, age, sex, race/ethnicity, and year, with Taylor series linearized standard errors clustered by state and classroom. In a secondary analysis among students who are sexual minorities, we included an interaction between sexual minority identity and living in a state that had implemented same-sex marriage policies.

Interventions:  Implementation of state policies permitting same-sex marriage during the full period of YRBSS data collection.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Self-report of 1 or more suicide attempts within the past 12 months.

Results:  Among the 762 678 students (mean [SD] age, 16.0 [1.2] years; 366 063 males and 396 615 females) who participated in the YRBSS between 1999 and 2015, a weighted 8.6% of all high school students and 28.5% of 231 413 students who identified as sexual minorities reported suicide attempts before implementation of same-sex marriage policies. Same-sex marriage policies were associated with a 0.6–percentage point (95% CI, –1.2 to –0.01 percentage points) reduction in suicide attempts, representing a 7% relative reduction in the proportion of high school students attempting suicide owing to same-sex marriage implementation. The association was concentrated among students who were sexual minorities.

Conclusions and Relevance:  State same-sex marriage policies were associated with a reduction in the proportion of high school students reporting suicide attempts, providing empirical evidence for an association between same-sex marriage policies and mental health outcomes.


UPDATE:  Because the findings above were clearly inconclusive, I made only a few desultory comments on them.  Andrew Bolt, however has subsequently offered a fuller critique of them

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