Rutgers School of Public Health Dean Perry N. Halkitis has co-authored an American Psychological Association (APA) report that found that racial, ethnic, and sexual minority men are some of the unhealthiest individuals in America. 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 APA.
For example, African-American 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,” said Dr. Wizdom Powell, 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.
Among other findings:
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.
“The lives of sexual and racial ethnic minority men continue to be burdened in our country,” says Dean Halkitis. “As indicated by many factors, including HIV, which overburdens African American sexual minority men in particular.”
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 African-American men who experience depression lasting longer than a year is significantly higher than white men, at 56 percent compared with 38 percent, according to the report.
Although men commit more than 90 percent 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 African-American 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.
“One of the challenges of doing work that is effective is overcoming hyper masculine conceptions that are perpetuated by society, which seek to diminish anybody who is different,” says Dean Halkitis.
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.
“Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic and Sexual Minority Boys and Men” was recently published by the American Psychological Association.