Do Democrats Prevent Gay Teen Suicides?

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Gay, lesbian, and bisexual (LGB) teens who live in communities with greater proportions of Democrats may be less likely to commit suicide. That’s according to a new study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

The study looked at a survey of about 32,000 11th graders in 34 Oregon counties, about 4 percent of whom were LGB. It found that LGB youth living in supportive social environments were 25 percent less likely to try killing themselves. In order to measure social support, the study looked at a community’s political party affiliation, as well as the prevalence of schools’ anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies and Gay-Straight Alliance groups.

Suicides among gay youth have received a lot of attention in recent months, particularly after a spate of deaths last fall. (The most dramatic, perhaps, was the Rutgers University freshman who leapt off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate streamed a video online of him in an encounter with another man.)

Researcher Mark Hatzenbuehler, who conducted the study, said in a press release that the results would provide a “road map” to reducing suicides. But he expressed concern about the lack of progress in some communities. In Utah, for instance, Mormons have strongly opposed Gay-Straight Alliances.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among all 15- to 24-year-olds and even higher among LGB youth (PDF).