Eye-opening new study reveals why gay men are so stressed

Gay and bisexual men face “unique, status-based competitive pressures” that can put a major strain on their mental health, a new study has revealed.

The five-year study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and is the most rigorous study yet into the effects of stressors within the gay community.

It cites the corrosive effects of status consciousness, competitiveness and racism within the LGBT+ community as potential causes for greater stress in men who have sex with men.

Led by John Pachankis, an associate professor of public health and psychiatry at Yale, the research is based on five psychological studies with nine cohorts of gay and bisexual men.

Pachankis found that much of the stress they experienced came from the widespread perception of “the gay community’s focus on sex, focus on status, focus on competition, and exclusion of diversity”.

In general the LGBT+ community is more prone to mental health problems, which in turn leads to a greater likelihood of substance misuse.  The rate of suicide is also four times higher in LGBT+ people than in the heterosexual population.

However, the study suggested that gay and bisexual men’s mental health is impacted in specific ways that go beyond the “comprehensive battery of traditional minority stressors” affecting the LGBT+ community.

Factors such as physique, income and race can be major sources of “compare-and-despair” anxieties that have become ever-more insidious with apps such as Instagram and Grindr, Pachankis explained to the Guardian.

Additionally, unlike their straight counterparts, sexual minority men can assess their own personal sexual status using standards they would apply to potential partners, which can create a mental feedback loop and give rise to a kind of “sexual arms race.”

Pachankis’ research has also influenced a follow-up study which associates rejection from gay and bisexual peers with an increased likelihood that men would engage in sex that put them at risk for HIV. This is soon to be published in the Annals of Behavioural Medicine.