May 11, 2016
2 min read

Younger gay, bisexual men have higher risk for depression, self-harm than older peers

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Younger age, lower education and lower income increased risk for poor mental health among gay and bisexual men, according to recent findings.

“Mental illness is one of the biggest health challenges facing the world today and can affect people from all walks of life. We know minority groups are at higher risk of poor mental health than the heterosexual majority, however the mental health differences within sexual minorities is unclear,” Ford Hickson, MSc, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said in a press release. “Our study showed that among gay and bisexual men, age and ethnicity had a significant impact on mental health, as did income and education. This is possibly because men are better able to cope with homophobia the older they are, or if they are relatively privileged in other areas of their lives.”

To assess differences in mental health indicators among gay and bisexual men, researchers evaluated Internet health survey responses from 5,799 men aged 16 years and older who were sexually attracted to other men. Median age was 32 years.

Overall, 21.3% of participants reported depression, 17.1% reported anxiety, 6.5% reported self-harm within the last year and 3% attempted suicide.

All of these mental health outcomes were associated with younger age, lower education and lower income.

Men aged younger than 26 years were two times more likely to have depression or anxiety and seven times more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide than men aged 45 years and older.

Men in the lowest income bracket were two to three times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, self-harm or attempted suicide than those in the highest bracket.

Men with lower levels of education were approximately two times as likely to experience mental health outcomes than those with higher levels of education.

Being of a racial or ethnic minority or feeling sexual attraction towards women in addition to men was associated with depression.

Cohabitating with a male partner and living in London had protective effects on mental health.

“Minority groups are usually thought to be more homogenous than they actually are, when in fact there is great variation in health and life situations among this group. What's clear is that health inequalities among gay and bisexual men mirror those in the broader society,” Hickson said in the release. “Poor mental health is not evenly distributed across race, income or education. We must ensure that access to life-changing support services are targeted to where they are needed most. Everyone has the right to good mental health.” – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.