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Loneliness and self-rated physical health among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in Vancouver, Canada

Abstract

Background Due to stigma and discrimination, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) potentially carry a heightened burden of loneliness. This analysis investigates loneliness among gbMSM and its relationship with self-rated physical health, along with the mediating effect of depression.

Methods Participants were recruited using respondent-driven sampling into the Momentum Health Study (February 2012–February 2015) with follow-up visits occurring every 6 months till February 2018. Using computer-assisted self-interviews, measures of loneliness were assessed using a 6-item Loneliness Scale for Emotional and Social Loneliness (lonely vs not lonely). Current physical health was self-assessed (poor, fair, good, very good or excellent). A multivariable generalised linear-mixed model with a logit link function was used to examine the relationship between loneliness and self-rated physical health. We further investigated the mediating effect of depressive symptomatology on this relationship via the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.

Results Of the 770 participants included, we found that 61% (n=471) experienced loneliness at baseline. Of the 674 (88%) who reported good/very good/excellent physical health, 59% (n=391) reported loneliness, compared with 87% (n=80) of those in poor/fair self-rated physical health who reported feeling lonely. After adjustment for confounding, loneliness was associated with poor self-rated physical health (adjusted OR 1.71; 95% CI 1.13 to 2.60). Depressive symptomatology was found to partially mediate this relationship.

CONCLUSION There may be a need for the integration of social, mental and physical health programming, targeted towards gbMSM, to alleviate the degree of loneliness experienced and its co-occurrence with poor self-rated physical health.

  • mental health
  • psychosocial factors
  • self-rated health

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