Evidence of Multiple Mediating Pathways in Associations Between Constructs of Stigma and Self-Reported Suicide Attempts in a Cross-Sectional Study of Gay and Bisexual Men

Arch Sex Behav. 2018 May;47(4):1145-1161. doi: 10.1007/s10508-017-1019-0. Epub 2017 Aug 18.


Gay and bisexual men (GBM) are more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual men. This disparity is commonly interpreted using minority stress theory; however, specific pathways from antigay stigma to suicidal behavior are poorly understood. We aimed to estimate associations between multiple constructs of stigma and suicide attempts among adult GBM, and to measure the proportion of these associations mediated by distinct suicide risk factors, thus identifying proximal points of intervention. Data were drawn from a Canadian community-based survey of adult GBM. Structural equation modeling was used to compare associations between three latent constructs-enacted stigma (e.g., discrimination, harassment), anticipated prejudice (worry about encountering antigay/bisexual prejudice), and sexuality concealment-and self-reported suicide attempts (last 12 months). Coefficients were estimated for direct, indirect, and total pathways and evaluated based on magnitude and statistical significance. The proportion of associations mediated by depression, drug/alcohol use, and social isolation was calculated using indirect paths. Among 7872 respondents, 3.4% reported a suicide attempt in the past 12 months. The largest total association was observed for enacted stigma, and this association was partially mediated by depression and drug/alcohol use. The total association of anticipated prejudice was relatively smaller and mediated by depression and social isolation. Concealment had an inverse association with suicide attempts as mediated by depression but was also positively associated with suicide attempts when mediated through social isolation. Multiple constructs of antigay stigma were associated with suicide attempts; however, mediating pathways differed by construct, suggesting that a combination of strategies is required to prevent suicide in adult GBM.

Keywords: Gay and bisexual men; Mental health; Minority stress; Sexual orientation; Sexual stigma; Suicide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bisexuality / psychology*
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Report
  • Social Stigma*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires