Overview: A new UCLA study suggests that the mental health impacts of coronavirus lockdowns on gay and bisexual men were more pronounced than for other groups. Gay men are already at higher risk for adverse effects on both physical and mental health. Technology was helpful in mitigating some of these effects, the study found.
It’s safe to say that everyone has been affected in some way by the lockdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic. A new study published in February 2021 shows that one group’s mental health may have been disproportionately affected by pandemic lockdown: gay and bisexual men.
The study, led by UCLA, looked at more than 10,000 men who identified as gay or bisexual in April and May of 2020 and found that 63% of them said they only left the house for essentials during that time. Most of the men were in the 18-to-34 age range and lived in urban areas, which had some of the strictest lockdown measures in the early months of the pandemic.
Gay Men Experience More Anxiety and Loneliness During Lockdown
The men who observed lockdown except for necessary shopping and appointments reported significantly higher levels of anxiety (37%) and loneliness (36%) than those who did not stay at home. These men also reported that their sex lives were affected, and many were less satisfied with their sex lives than before the pandemic. Most of the men were not in a relationship at the time of the study.
It is not surprising that the mental health of gay men would be impacted more severely by isolation than other groups. The CDC reports that gay men already suffer more mental health issues than the general public because of the remaining or residual stigma of their sexual orientation and the stress involved in coming out to family and friends.
Gay Men Also Suffer More Adverse Health Issues
Gay men also have more health issues than the general population, which puts some at higher risk for severe cases of COVID-19 because of their comorbidities. These include higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), tobacco use, and drug and alcohol misuse than the general population as well as higher rates of heart disease and autoimmune disorders.
Technology Helps Ease Isolation
A bright spot in the study was that technology seemed to help with the isolation during lockdowns. The men who stayed home were more likely to use technologies like video calling, texting, and communication apps to connect with others during the time of isolation. “Our study shows us that technology can help us meet the moment,” study co-author and CEO of the LGBT Foundation Sean Howell said.
The social networking app Hornet, which co-sponsored the study, offers another opportunity for connection when isolation becomes a problem. “We must invest in interventions that include harm reduction approaches and leverage technology where possible to increase access to necessary health services and strengthen community connections,” according to Alex Garner, study co-author and senior health innovation strategist at Hornet.
How Harris House Can Help
This population needs specially designed LGBTQ substance abuse treatment that takes the special needs of this community into consideration. Harris House offers treatment specifically tailored to the needs of LGBTQ individuals. Call us to learn about admissions if you or a loved one needs help with substance misuse.