Young gay men more prone to committing suicide than older counterparts

A recent study has shown that young gay and bisexual men are more likely to attempt suicide than their older counterparts. Conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the study was funded  by the largest LGBT rights charity in the United Kingdom, Stonewall. After examining the mental health of gay and bisexual men residing in the United Kingdom, the study found that gay and bisexual men under the age of 26 were six times more likely to attempt to take their lives compared to gay and bisexual men over the age of 45.

Researchers analyzed the responses of the Stonewall Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health Survey, which surveyed 5,799 gay and bisexual men over the age of 16 living in the U.K.

The data showed that younger men earning a lower income were more likely to attempt suicide, while men with lower levels of education were twice as likely to be depressed, anxious or attempt self-harm than their college-educated counterparts. Higher levels of education are typically associated with higher levels of income; those with higher levels of education and income demonstrate how those factors can influence mental health positively.

African-American gay and bisexual men were reported as being twice as likely to be depressed and five times more likely to have attempted suicide than Caucasian gay and bisexual males.

“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,” said Ford Hickson, Ph.D., the study’s lead author.

An older gay or bisexual man may be less likely to attempt suicide than his young counterpart because he is at the stage of his life where he is secure in himself and his sexuality. The study supports this theory, with data showing that men who cohabit with their partners are 50 percent less likely to suffer from depression as compared to gay and bisexual males living alone in London—where the study was conducted—also proving to be beneficial since the city has one of the highest populations of gay males. Gay and bisexual males are far less likely to feel isolated in an environment in which they feel they can relate to others around them.

The researchers hope that the study will spark a larger conversation on health issues the LGBT community faces. “We’re really pleased to see this further in-depth analysis of mental health issues faced by gay and bisexual men. It’s known that a range of factors can increase risk of poor mental health among the population in general and the same holds true for gay and bisexual men. This study contributes to better understanding of the specific risks within LGBT communities and will hopefully lead to more targeted health interventions,” said April Guasp, head of research at Stonewall.

This study is one of the first of its kind to discern the mental health of gay and bisexual males. This study needs to be replicated several times in other nations, particularly in less tolerant environments, in order to gain a better understanding of its findings. The self-selecting nature of the study also works against the  accuracy of some of the data.

Though the U.K. boasts a large support network for LGBT youth, the researchers suggest more can be done to reach the more vulnerable populations of the demographic. “Poverty discourse must include discussion of sexuality and LGBT movements must attend to poverty,” the study explained, speaking on the need of better effort to help those living on a lower income.