October 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – For years, LGBT activists have asserted that society’s refusal to fully recognize homosexuality as indistinguishable from heterosexuality was a key contributor to suicide among young gay Americans, but a new study is challenging the notion that the advent of same-sex “marriage” reduced the suicide rate at all.
D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University and the National Bureau of Economic Research, along with Kyutaro Matsuzawa and Joseph J. Sabia of San Diego State University’s Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies, released a paper this month analyzing data from State Youth Risk Behavior Surveys to “explore the relationship between marriage equality and suicidal behaviors among LGBQ-identifying youths.”
Their conclusion: “We find little evidence that SSM laws have reduced suicide attempts among teen sexual minorities, nor have they decreased the likelihood of suicide planning, suicide ideation, or depression. Instead, we find some evidence that SSM legalization via judicial mandate is associated with worse mental health for these individuals, consistent with a story of social backlash.”
The paper is in part a response to a much-publicized 2017 study led by Johns Hopkins researcher Julia Raifman, finding an “immediate decline in suicide attempts by gay, lesbian and bisexual high school students” in states that recognized same-sex “marriage,” based on survey data spanning 1999 to 2015.
The Anderson paper argues that the Raifman paper suffered from a litany of limitations on what could be inferred from the data, for reasons ranging from multiple states lacking follow-up data from more than one wave of post-treatment surveys, failure to account for LGBT youth who decline to identify as such on surveys, failure to explore “suicidal ideation, suicide planning, and depression” in addition to actual suicide attempts, and other, more technical, methodological issues.
Starting with the same data Raifman’s team used, then adding data from more recent surveys, Anderson’s team found that the “estimated relationship between SSM laws and youth suicide attempts becomes smaller in magnitude and statistically indistinguishable from zero when we properly weight regressions, cluster the standard errors at the appropriate level, and allow covariate effects to differ for sexual minorities versus heterosexual students.” They also found “little evidence to suggest that legalization reduces depression, suicidal ideation, or suicide planning among LGBQ-identifying youth.”
Perhaps most notably, the researchers found that same-sex “marriage” recognition was actually “associated with increases in the probability of suicide planning and suicide ideation for LGBQ-identifying youths,” with “court-ordered SSM legalization” correlating to worse outcomes than “legislatively enacted SSM legalization.” This is “consistent with the hypothesis that LGBQ-identifying youths may face harsher social backlash in places where SSM is less popular and hence not enacted by the state’s popularly elected representative,” the authors wrote, but could also be due to “expectations of acceptance that are at variance with social reality.”
The paper also found that “little evidence” that redefining marriage improved other mental health markers for gay teens or reduced bullying or risky behaviors such as substance abuse, instead finding “SSM legalization was associated with a 3.4 percentage-point increase in binge drinking among self-identifying LGBQ youths.”
A wealth of research from around the world has also found that LGBT acceptance fails to resolve “transgender” individuals’ heightened tendency to engage in self-harm, as fixating on “identity affirmation” tends to distract from exploring and treating other potential sources of a patient’s mental or emotional problems.