Suicide rates among persons in same-sex vs. opposite-sex marriage


LGBTQIA + Health

Suicide among persons who entered same-sex and opposite-sex marriage in Denmark and Sweden, 1989–2016: a binational, register-based cohort study

This research report by Annette Erlangsen, Sven Drefahl, Ann Haas, Charlotte Bjorkenstam, Merete Nordentoft and Gunnar Andersson compares the suicide rates among persons in same-sex vs. opposite-sex marriage.


Background People belonging to sexual minority groups have higher levels of suicidality than heterosexuals. However, findings regarding suicide death are sparse. Using unique national data from two countries, we investigated whether individuals entering a same-sex marriage (SSM), a proxy group of sexual minority individuals, had higher suicide rates than those entering opposite-sex marriage (OSM).

Methods A cohort study of all males and females who entered an SSM (n=28 649) or OSM (n=3 918 617) in Denmark and Sweden during 1989–2016 was conducted. Incidence rate ratios (IRRs) for suicide were calculated using adjusted Poisson regression models.

Results In total, 97 suicides occurred among individuals who had entered an SSM compared with 6074 among those who entered an OSM, corresponding to an adjusted IRR of 2.3 (95% CI 1.9 to 2.8). For people who entered SSM, a 46% decline was noted over time from an IRR of 2.8 (95% CI 1.9 to 4.0) during 1989–2002 to 1.5 (95% CI 1.2 to 1.9) during 2003–2016. The excess suicide mortality was present in all age groups but most pronounced among younger individuals aged 18–34 years of age (IRR 2.7, 95% CI 1.5 to 4.8) and females (IRR 2.7, 95% CI 1.8 to 3.9).

Conclusion 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.

What is already known on this subject

  • Excess suicide risks have been found for males and females living in same-sex marriages (SSMs), yet, little is known with respect to whether rates differ with respect to age group, period and current civil status. Furthermore, methodological shortcomings due to difficulties in sampling representative study groups have restrained researchers from drawing conclusions.

What this study adds

  • This population-based study found a robust estimate of a 2.3-fold higher rate of suicide among people living in SSMs in Denmark and Sweden during 1989–2016. Interestingly, a lower excess suicide rate was noted in recent years. The excess suicide risk across sociodemographic characteristics has not previously been demonstrated for females who entered an SSM. Our findings emphasise that awareness and understanding of needs for support towards these groups are called for.

To read the full research report on suicide rates among persons in same-sex vs. opposite-sex marriage, click here.

General Information:

  • Corporate Author: Annette Erlangsen, Sven Drefahl, Ann Haas, Charlotte Bjorkenstam, Merete Nordentoft and Gunnar Andersson
  • Publication Year: 2019
  • This item is about these countries: Central and Eastern Europe
  • Theme: LGBTQIA + Health
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