NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Leaving one’s hometown and moving to a city can have negative health consequences for gay men a new study from the Yale School of Public Health finds.
The Yale team found that young gay men who moved to New York City experienced mental health issues, substance abuse and engaged in HIV-risk behavior. Those with higher incomes had lower HIV and mental health risks but tended to use more alcohol. The findings were published this week in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
“We know that young gay and bisexual men currently represent the highest-risk group for new HIV infections,” said John Pachankis, associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health. “Because these men might be moving from homophobic hometowns where they experienced stress related to discrimination or not fitting in, they might be particularly likely to seek connections or support in the easiest ways available in a big city. Unfortunately, this might include things like excessive alcohol or drug use and sex without condoms with casual partners.”
Pachankis said that there has been surprisingly little research exploring the health challenges of young gay and bisexual men who move to cities. While only migrants to New York City were studied, Pachankis said the findings could be relevant to other large major urban areas in the United States. Findings were largely similar whether participants were international migrants or moving from other places in the U.S.
The study also found that the men studied had, within the past few months since their arrival in the city, engaged in frequent behaviors that placed them at higher risk for HIV, suggesting that one of the ways migrants seek connections in their new home is by forming fleeting, but high-risk sexual contacts.
Pachankis and his team used popular mobile apps that gay and bisexual men use for meeting other men to recruit 273 men, ages 18-29, who had come to New York in the past year. The long-term goal of the research is to identify ways to support young migrants both during and after their move to ensure that they maintain good health despite the potential temptations of big city gay life.