Suicide rates among lesbians and gay men are falling as the stigma around homosexuality fades, but are still much higher than among straight people, a study on the situation in Sweden and Denmark, released on Thursday, has found.
These higher rates remain despite gay marriage legislation having significantly lowered suicide risks in LGBT+ groups.
The study focused on life in Sweden and Denmark, both early adopters of gay marriage.
Reduced stigma for minorities is likely driving the drop, the report said.
“Being married is protective against suicide,” Annette Erlangsen of the Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention, told Reuters.
“Legalizing same-sex marriage and other supportive legislative measures - they might actually reduce stigma around sexual minorities,” said Erlangsen, the lead author of the study.
Over two compared periods, from 2003 to 2016 and 1989 to 2002, researchers found that suicides fell 46% for people in homosexual unions and 28% for people in heterosexual couples.
Yet there remains a higher incidence of suicide attempts among the LGBT+ community: married gays or lesbians still killed themselves more than twice the rate of people in heterosexual unions.
Denmark was the first country in the world to allow same-sex civil unions in 1989. In Sweden, it happened in 1995.
Gay marriage became legal in 2009 in Sweden and in 2012 in Denmark. It is legal in 27 countries, including 16 European countries. Ecuador legalized same-sex marriage last June.
In 2018, researchers merged 35 studies on suicide rates among the LGBT+ community. They found that young LGBT+ people were at least three times more likely to attempt suicide than straight young people.
The study in Denmark and Sweden tracked more than 28,000 people in same-sex unions for an average of 11 years. It found that married lesbians were 2.8 times as likely to die by suicide as women in heterosexual unions and slightly more likely than straight, married men.
Overall, men in gay relationships are the most likely to attempt suicide.
“There still remains a considerable degree of homophobia, particularly against male homosexuals,” said Morten Frisch, of Denmark’s Statens Serum Institut, a research body.
“Just under one in three men still consider it morally unacceptable that two men have sex with each other,” he said, citing a survey of more than 62,000 Danes released in October.