On 24 May, the 2024 Canadian Men’s Health Report was released; the national study surveyed 2,070 men over the age of 19 and found that the risk of moderate-to-high depression in gay and bisexual men is 28%, and their risk of moderate-to-high anxiety is 45%, which is significantly higher than in heterosexual men, whose risk is 18% and 30% for depression and anxiety, respectively.

This June is Pride Month, as well as Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, so it is important to acknowledge how the two awareness campaigns could work together to address the clear disparity in mental health awareness among gay and bisexual men.

Minority stress theory anticipates higher rates of mental health disparities for gay and bisexual men

A 2022 meta-analysis published in the Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavcia journal by Wittgens and colleagues supported the findings of the Canadian Men’s Health Report, reporting higher rates of depression and anxiety in homosexual and bisexual people, compared to heterosexual people.

The findings of both studies support the minority stress theory, which anticipates higher rates of mental health disparities for gay and bisexual men compared with heterosexual, cis-gendered people, considering excess stress related to a variety of stigma-related experiences, which includes but is not restricted to discrimination, the use of micro-aggressions, internalized discrimination, increased likelihood of alcohol dependence, and physical and sexual violence.

GlobalData epidemiologists anticipate that in 2024 there will be 112,318,000 lifetime total diagnosed prevalent cases of anxiety in the 16 major markets (US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and South Korea), which will increase to 115,046,000 cases in 2028.

According to Wittgens and colleagues, there is currently no evidence of a decline in the risk of poor mental health among gay and bisexual men. Over recent years there have been legislative and social changes across many countries that were expected to close the gap between depression and anxiety risk in homosexual and bisexual people, compared to their heterosexual counterparts. However, it is likely to take much longer to counteract the damage caused by decades of societal and institutional discrimination faced by people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

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Mental health awareness month

Both gay and bisexual men have reported seeing a vast improvement in their mental health when actively engaging within their community or sharing experiences through support groups; this creates a safe environment to discuss mental health, whether rooted in one’s sexuality or not, and encourages engagement with professional services that will increase the individual’s likelihood of seeking treatment.

This mental health awareness month, there have been a lot of helpful materials released throughout healthcare settings, via social media platforms, and across workplaces globally, but the main message of all campaigns is the importance of talking, and eliminating the idea that men should ‘man up.’

This discussion must not lose momentum after the awareness month passes. GlobalData epidemiologists anticipate that if we continue to encourage men to talk about their mental health, and their sexuality, in both casual and professional settings, we will start to see the engagement with psychological therapies increase, and the risk of depression and anxiety decrease over time.

According to the World Health Organization, men globally are more than twice as likely to die from suicide, compared to women.

Mental health affects every gender, but the disparity in the number of men seeking treatment highlights how the skewed expectations about how men should display and deal with their mental health, and the concept of toxic masculinity, are still deeply integrated within society.