Investigation in progress

Are suicide rates lower for sexual minorities in LGBT-affirming countries?

Are suicide rates for LGBT people the same as the suicide rates for heterosexual people in countries with high levels of LGBT-affirmation? In case I get asked this question, I thought it might be good to look at the data in advance, and decide what the evidence looks like, and what line I should take in a debate about it. And since I have a blog, I’m going to post all of my findings below.

First, I want to note that in this NBC News article, the following countries are listed in the “15 Best Countries for LGBTQ Expats“:

  • Denmark
  • Iceland
  • Sweden

I say this, because these are the countries measured in the studies below.

So, here is one study from November 2019, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, entitled “Suicide among persons who entered same-sex and opposite-sex marriage in Denmark and Sweden, 1989–2016: a binational, register-based cohort study“.

The abstract says:

This large register-based study found higher suicide rates among individuals who entered an SSM, compared with those who entered an OSM. A lower suicide rate was noted for individuals in SSMs in recent years. More research is needed to identify the unique suicide risk and protective factors for sexual minority people.

SSM means same-sex “marriage” and OSM means opposite-sex marriage.

Here’s another study from Sweden about same-sex “married” LGBT people, published May 2016, in the European Journal of Epidemiology. The title is the “Suicide in married couples in Sweden: Is the risk greater in same-sex couples?

The abstract says:

Even in a country with a comparatively tolerant climate regarding homosexuality such as Sweden, same-sex married individuals evidence a higher risk for suicide than other married individuals.

Here’s another study from Sweden about LGBT individuals, published in March 2016 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, entitled “Self-reported suicide ideation and attempts, and medical care for intentional self-harm in lesbians, gays and bisexuals in Sweden“.

The abstract says:

Positive histories of suicidal ideation, attempts and medical care for intentional self-harm, including higher levels of recurrence, are more prevalent among LGB individuals in contrast to heterosexuals. Lesbian/bisexual women evidence an earlier age of onset of treatment.

Here’s another study from Sweden about people who underwent sex-reassignment surgery, published in February 2011, PLoS One, entitled “Long-Term Follow-Up of Transsexual Persons Undergoing Sex Reassignment Surgery: Cohort Study in Sweden“.

The abstract says:

Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population.

Here’s a study from Iceland about LGBT adolescents, published in May 2015, and entitled “Suicidal risk and sexual orientation in adolescence: A population-based study in Iceland“.

The abstract says:

The LGB girls were six times more likely to have had frequent suicide attempts, whilst the LGB boys were 17 times more likely to have attempted suicide that often.

So, there are some studies I found, and if anyone asks me about this, I’ll explain that although I am not a social science researcher, the studies of people in LGBT-friendly countries show that there is a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide for LGBT individuals and couples than there is for heterosexual individuals and couples. And if they ask which countries, I’ll say Sweden, Iceland and Denmark. I’ll say that these are countries where same-sex “marriage” is legal.

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