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Racial/Ethnic and Sexual Minority Males Among Unhealthiest People in America, Report Finds

APA working group recommends more research, improved public policy

Men in the United States tend to have more privilege, wealth, and career success than women, yet they lead shorter and unhealthier lives. This reality is compounded for men of color and sexual minority men, who are among the unhealthiest people in America, partly due to systemic oppression and discrimination, according to a report released by the American Psychological Association.

For example, black men consistently have life expectancies six years shorter than white men, according to the report.

"Eliminating early deaths and negative health outcomes among boys and men of color and gay, bisexual, and transgender boys and men are essential for the well-being of our country," says Wizdom Powell, PhD, MPH, chair of the APA Working Group on Health Disparities in Boys and Men, which wrote the report. "The social justice movements occurring all over America show us there is a deepening national interest in disenfranchised groups. They face unique social stressors that can compromise their health and safety and we wanted to understand how marginalized identities, stress, and disadvantage affect health behaviors, coping strategies, and outcomes of these vulnerable boys and men."

Several factors work against minority boys and men, leading to higher rates of trauma, substance use, depression, and violence, according to the report.

Other findings include the following:

• Sexual minority men are more apt to struggle with substance use and continue heavy drinking later in life than heterosexuals.

• Latino men are six times more likely to binge drink than Latina women and black men are four times more likely to do so than their female counterparts.

• Black people are six times more likely than white people to be incarcerated for drug-related charges.

The report cited statistics indicating that sexual minority boys and men are at a higher risk for HIV and AIDS and have higher rates of suicide, smoking, and being bullied and harassed than heterosexual boys and men. They are also more often targeted for hate crimes.

Racial and ethnic minority males are also vulnerable to suicide, the report highlighted. Recent evidence showed an upsurge in suicide among black boys between the ages of 8 and 11. Also, data from 2014 indicated that American Indian/Alaska Native males had the highest suicide rates of all racial and ethnic groups.

Depression is one of the most serious health problems around the world, and men's depression is often masked by alcohol or drugs or by the socially acceptable habit of working long hours. Among men who report an instance of depression over their lifetime, the percentage of black men who experience depression lasting longer than a year is significantly higher than white men, at 56% compared with 38%, according to the report.

Although men commit more than 90% of crimes, they are also more likely to be victims of crime and violence, according to the report. Homicide is the leading cause of death for black males between the ages of 15 and 34, the second leading cause of death for Hispanics in that age range, the third for American Indians/Alaska Natives, and the fourth for Asian and Pacific Islander males.

"These well-documented disparities indicate that we have a massive problem and opportunity in our country to positively impact health outcomes facing minority boys and men," Powell says.

The working group suggested a range of solutions to help eliminate these inequities through changes in public policy and health care. Generating more public awareness was also included as a critical factor in improving health for minority groups.

The report recommended increased funding for federal research and for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor gun violence and support firearm injury prevention research. It also recommended an increase in therapeutic support for families and called for the integration of comprehensive assessments into clinical practice that include screenings for physical and mental health concerns during primary and specialty health care visits.

"Despite the odds stacked against them, the majority of vulnerable boys and men are resilient and oriented toward personal growth," Powell says. "We have a lot of hope that we can create better communities and better lives for minority boys and men."

Source: American Psychological Association