In 1989, Denmark made history by becoming the first country to allow same-sex civil unions. Sweden followed just six years later. But it took Sweden until 2009, and Denmark until 2012, to properly legalize same-sex marriage as such.
Now, a recently published study conducted over several years has found that suicide rates among people in same-sex partnerships have taken a significant drop in both countries since the legalization came into effect—coinciding specifically with that particular legislation. The study, carried out by the Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention and a research team from Stockholm University, followed 28,000 people in same-sex relationships for an average of 11 years.
“Although suicide rates in the general populations of Denmark and Sweden have been decreasing in recent decades, the rate for those living in same-sex marriage declined at a steeper pace, which has not been noted previously,” the study says.
What exactly did the study find?
The research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, focused on comparing suicide rates for both coupled heterosexual and gay people in the periods from 1989 to 2002, and 2003 to 2016. The results were both encouraging as well as alarming.
You see, between these two intervals, the number of suicides in the gay community dropped by 46%, compared to 28% for straight couples. The specific decrease and the time where it occurred more steeply aptly corresponds to the period since gay marriage became legal. This might have something to do with both social acceptance as well as the intrinsic psychological benefits of being in a marriage. And that’s good news.
But the study still found that people in same-sex marriages are more than twice as likely to kill themselves than people in heterosexual marriages. That is, in fact, worrisome. As the research’s lead author, Annette Erlangsen, told Information, “Of course, it is positive to see that the suicide rate has almost halved. But it remains worryingly high, especially considering that the suicide rate may be higher among non-married people.”
The dark side of stigmas
Studies have consistently shown that members of the LGBT+ community are several times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual people of the same age. Fortunately, this risk seems to be reduced with pro-equality and pro-LGBT+ legislation, as in the case of same-sex marriage.
Still, it’s important to note that homophobia is alive and well all around the world still. Widely known to be one of the most progressive regions in the world, even Scandinavia is (surprisingly) filled with homophobic prejudices, as shown by a study published last month which pointed out that one third of Danish men considered it is morally wrong for a man to have a sex with another man.
So, it’s hardly surprising that many members of the gay community feel stigmatized by society as a whole even to this day.
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