|In the most
extensive study of its kind, researchers found that urban
gay men are at least three
times more likely than heterosexual men to have planned suicide, attempted it or both.
One in five gay men surveyed said they had gone as far as to actually make a plan to commit
suicide, and 12 percent attempted it, usually before the age of 25.
"You're talking about one in eight men who have attempted suicide at some point during
their lifetime," said psychologist Jay Paul, the study's co-author. "It underscores the stresses
that gay men can experience in our society and the costs of stigmatization of gay and bisexual men."
No one knows how many gay men successfully commit suicide. Paul and researchers at the University
of California at San Francisco's Center for AIDS Prevention Studies examined a 1996-1998 survey
of 2,881 gay and bisexual men. All those surveyed lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Chicago.
Suicidal impulses were especially common among those who make less than $20,000 a year -- 33 percent
of them had planned it and 22 percent had attempted it, compared to 19 percent and 9 percent, respectively,
for those who make more than $80,000.
By contrast, an estimated 9-15 percent of heterosexual men make plans to commit suicide during their
lives, and 1.5-3 percent attempt it. Psychologists are not sure how many suicide attempts actually result
in deaths, Paul said. Estimates have ranged from one in 10 to as few as one in 50 or 60, he said.
Men are nearly five times more likely to commit suicide than women. Of all age groups, men over 65
are most likely to kill themselves. The new study found no major differences in the rates of suicidal
impulses among black, white and Latino gay men.
The study is part of an overall investigation into the lives of gay men, with a focus on those who are
HIV-positive. The findings appear in the August 2002 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
Researchers found that HIV-positive men were only somewhat more likely to have been suicidal than
The study only looked at gay men in several of the largest cities in the U.S., so it does not necessarily
reflect the lives of gays in smaller cities and towns, Paul said. However, most of the gay men surveyed
were originally from somewhere else -- including smaller cities and towns, he said.
In a surprising finding, researchers discovered that younger gay men -- those born after 1965 -- were the
most likely to be suicidal, despite the tremendous gains in society's acceptance of gays and lesbians in
recent years. Paul said that may be because gay men are coming out earlier in life, setting themselves
up for harassment by others. "We're not as naive about sexual orientation as we were a few years
ago," he said. "Kids are not as naive. They will label somebody as gay or any of the other pejorative
ways of describing someone."
About half of younger men -- born after 1955 -- reported being harassed before age 17 because of their
orientation, compared to only about 27 percent of men born before 1945. Paul acknowledged that the older
men may have forgotten about being harassed as teens. Regardless, the finding still points to an ongoing
epidemic of harassment, he said.
"There has to be a policy where none of this is tolerable in school settings and in other kinds of settings
where kids interact with peers," he said.
Source: Randy Dotinga
Gay.com / PlanetOut.com Network