Elevated trauma exposure and mental health burden among men who have sex with men in Vietnam

Transcult Psychiatry. 2022 Jun;59(3):362-379. doi: 10.1177/13634615211058348. Epub 2022 Jan 24.


The purpose of this study was to characterize trauma exposure and mental health burden among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Hanoi, Vietnam. Participants comprise 100 HIV-positive and 98 high-risk, HIV-negative MSM, ranging from 18 to 29 years of age. Data were collected using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, Traumatic Events Inventory, Patient Health Questionnaire-9, Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7, and PTSD Symptom Scale. A subset of participants (n = 12) were also interviewed to evaluate community perception of the prevalence, causation, and available treatment options for mental health issues within the MSM community in Vietnam. In our sample, 23.2% reported having experienced moderate-to-severe childhood physical abuse; 18.7% physical neglect; 13.6% emotional abuse; 11.1% emotional neglect; and 26.8% sexual abuse. Such trauma exposure continued into adulthood and manifested most commonly in the form of interpersonal violence. Approximately 37.4% of the sample met the criteria for probable PTSD; 26.8% for moderate-to-severe depression; and 20.2% for moderate-to-severe anxiety. Neither exposure nor mental health burden differed by serostatus. Linear regression revealed that childhood emotional abuse was the only sub-type of trauma significantly associated with depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms. The majority of interviewees believed that mental health burden was higher among MSM relative to the general population and attributed this to their vulnerability to interpersonal violence and lack of available coping resources. However, few believed that these mental health issues warranted clinical attention, and only one participant was able to identify a mental health service provider. Our findings suggest that trauma exposure and mental health burden are prevalent among MSM, irrespective of serostatus, and much higher than what has been previously reported among the general population in Vietnam.

Keywords: HIV; Vietnam; health disparities; men who have sex with men; mental health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / psychology
  • Vietnam / epidemiology