New to New York: Ecological and Psychological Predictors of Health Among Recently Arrived Young Adult Gay and Bisexual Urban Migrants

Ann Behav Med. 2016 Oct;50(5):692-703. doi: 10.1007/s12160-016-9794-8.


Background: Young gay and bisexual men might move to urban enclaves to escape homophobic environments and achieve greater sexual and social freedom, yet little is known about the health risks that these young migrants face.

Purpose: Drawing on recent qualitative depictions of gay and bisexual men's urban ecologies and psychological research on motivation and goal pursuit, we investigated migration-related motivations, experiences, health risks, and their associations among young gay and bisexual men in New York City.

Method: Gay and bisexual men (n = 273; ages 18-29) who had moved to New York City within the past 12 months completed an online survey regarding their hometowns, new urban experiences, migration motivations, and health risks.

Results: Not having a college degree, HIV infection, hometown stigma, within-US migration, and moving to outside a gay-dense neighborhood were associated with moving to escape stress; hometown structural stigma and domestic migration were associated with moving for opportunity. Migrating from larger US-based hometowns, having recently arrived, and moving for opportunity predicted HIV transmission risk. Social isolation predicted lower drug use but more mental health problems. Higher income predicted lower HIV and mental health risk but higher alcohol risk. Hometown interpersonal discrimination predicted all health risks, but hometown structural stigma protected against drug risk.

Conclusion: Findings offer a comprehensive picture of young gay and bisexual male migrants' experiences and health risks and help build a theory of high-risk migration. Results can inform structural- and individual-level interventions to support the health of this sizeable and vulnerable segment of the urban population.

Keywords: Alcohol use; Geography; HIV; Mental health; Migration; Minority stress; Sexual minority; Stigma; Substance use; Urban.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Minority Health*
  • Motivation
  • New York City
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual Partners / psychology
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / psychology*
  • Social Isolation
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology*
  • Young Adult