Gay men more likely to die from suicide than HIV after age 30: study

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A new study published in the most recent issue of Critical Public Health has found that gay and bisexual men in Canada are significantly more likely to die from suicide than HIV after the age of 30.

Travis Salway Hottes, a researcher at the University of Toronto, say gays and bisexual men are four times more likely to have attempted suicide, with 157 fatal cases in 2011 alone. In contrast, 103 men died from HIV-related complications in the same year.

Mortality data from Statistics Canada and population data on gay and bisexual men in the Canadian Community Health Survey were used to determine these epidemiological findings.

HIV-related deaths among gay and bisexual men in Canada have steadily decreased from 2000 to 2011. Prior 2002, the HIV-related mortality rate was higher than suicides, but this changed from 2002 to 2007 when it became approximately the same. Since 2007, the suicide rate has ben higher than the HIV-related mortality rate.

The health survey estimates two per cent of Canadian men are either gay or bisexual, but it also assumes the figure is significantly lower than the actual number given that stigma persists with reporting a minority sexual orientation.

“Contrary to the notion that ‘it gets better’, there are good reasons to expect that the same stressors which drive gay teenagers to suicide continue to afflict us as gay adults,” Salway Hottes wrote. “Moreover, fatality of suicide attempts increases with age. Addressing these gaps will require broadening our ideas of who is most at risk – and included in our research.”

“As our syndemic analysis showed, the population-level cause of the HIV and suicide epidemics in gay men is a common one: pervasive antigay stigma which is in turn perpetuated through discrimination, violence, and bullying, as well as less overt forms of heterosexism. Suicide marks a particularly acute and severe response to this cause, but the most pernicious effects are those that are spread across categories of disease.”

 

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