A recent study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology has found that suicide rates amongst gay and bisexual men are more likely to decline in countries that are more accepting of LGBTQI people.

Warning: This story discusses a scientific study of depression and suicide and might be distressing to some readers. For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

While many studies in the past have shown that living in countries with anti-LGBTQI laws takes a toll on queer people’s mental health, this most recent study by the American Psychological Association has found that moving to a more LGBTQI accepting country can improve mental health.

Risks Decreased Dramatically

In Structural Stigma and Sexual Minority Men’s Depression and Suicidality: A Multilevel Examination of Mechanisms and Mobility Across 48 Countries researchers found that when gay or bisexual men moved to a more tolerant country the risk of depression or suicide decreased dramatically.

“The study shows that structural stigma shaped gay and bisexual men’s daily lives and mental health by increasing their risks for social isolation, concealment of their identity, and internalized homonegativity,” said lead author of the study and director of the LGBTQ Mental Health Initiative at the Yale School of Public Health John Pachankis.

There were nine researchers involved in conducting the study and they surveyed more than 123,000 gay and bisexual men between 2017 and 2018.

After analysing this data the researchers created an index which was compiled from 15 laws and policies relating to LGBTQI rights, as well as social attitudes to compare the stigma gay and bisexual men face in different countries.

Around 11,000 Participants Moved Countries During Study

Out of the participants surveyed, 11,000 moved from a higher-stigma country to a lower-stigma country. The study found the longer participants from higher-stigma countries lived in a lower-stigma country, they had lower risks of depression and suicide.

“Those with longer exposure to lower-structural stigma environments in receiving countries—that is, those who moved at least five years ago— have lower risk of depression and suicidality, and of experiencing the psychosocial mechanisms through which structural stigma might compromise mental health, compared to those who moved less than five years ago,” the study said.

However participants who moved from a lower-stigma country to a higher-stigma country did not report an increase in decreased mental health.

The researchers speculated the reason there isn’t a noticeable increase in depression and suicides among gay and bisexual men who move to a higher-stigma country is because the were more likely to have moved as adults and for opportunity like work or to be with a partner. But they said more research needs to be done to confirm this theory.

Australian Study During Marriage Equality Vote

Although Australia was not included as one of the countries surveyed, the study did reference a research project that focused on gay, lesbian and bisexual people in Australia during the plebiscite. 

According to the 2018 study LGB people that lived in areas that had a higher no vote were found  to have worse life satisfaction, mental health and overall health.

“These findings have significant implications for policy and practice, highlighting the need for interventions aimed at reducing community levels of structural stigma and increasing social support to LGB populations,” the study had said.

LGBT Health published a study this year that found that discrimination and high rates of unemployment trans people face in Australia makes them more susceptible to mental health problems.

Of the 928 trans and gender diverse people that pariticpated in this survey 43% had attempted suicide and 63% had tried to self-harm.

“Urgent action is required from a policy perspective to address the concerning health disparities described herein and to ensure that all trans people are safe and empowered to live a life without barriers,” the study said.


If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.




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