Suicide rates among gay men eight times higher

Statistics: The survey found similar rates of smoking and drinking between gay and heterosexual men.
Statistics: The survey found similar rates of smoking and drinking between gay and heterosexual men.© Marlith

Gay men in Scotland are nearly eight times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year and four times more likely to have taken drugs than heterosexual men, a survey has suggested.

A survey on gay and bisexual men's health by Stonewall Scotland has found 3% of gay men and 7% of bisexual men have attempted to take their own life in last year, compared to 0.4% of the general population.

It also found 44% had taken drugs in the past year, compared to 11% of the general population, with gay men more than twice as likely to take cannabis (21%) and cocaine (10%), as well as amphetamines and tranquillisers (4%).

One in four had taken the muscle relaxant amyl nitrate, commonly known as poppers, compared to just 1% of men in general.

Gay men are also three times more likely to take ecstasy (9%), four times more likely to take ketamine (4%) and seven times more likely to take mephedrone (7%). The survey also found 2% had taken GHB and 1% crystal meth.

Stonewall Scotland surveyed 633 gay and bisexual men in Scotland about their health.

Half of gay men have experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse from a family member or partner since the age of 16.

One in three gay and bisexual men in Scotland have never been tested for any sexually transmitted infection, with a majority (68%) saying they have not put themselves at risk.

The survey found similar rates of smoking and drinking between gay and heterosexual men.

Gay men are generally slimmer, with half recording a normal body mass index (BMI) compared to a third of heterosexual men, despite engaging in slightly less regular exercise (40%).

Analysing the survey results, Stonewall Scotland has recommended healthcare training should cover the specific health needs of gay and bisexual men.

A third of gay and bisexual men who have accessed healthcare services in the last year have had a negative experience in relation to their sexual orientation.

Only a quarter of gay and bisexual men said their healthcare professional acknowledged their sexuality and only one in ten said they were told that their partner was welcome during a consultation.

Stonewall has called on Royal Colleges to update professional development programmes to include topics such as same-sex partner rights.

Colin Macfarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, said: "This deeply troubling report provides hard evidence that Scotland's gay and bisexual men are being let down by health services which often see homosexuality and bisexuality purely as sexual health issues.

"As a result hundreds of thousands of gay and bisexual men are in dire need of better support from health professionals.

"The findings send a stark message that Scotland's health services need to rethink how they approach many of their patients and our report makes a number of recommendations which could help them improve.

"We hope they will rise to that challenge."

For more information on suicide, visit the STV Health Centre, brought to you by NHS inform.

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