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Substance use and comorbidities in same sex-attracted young males

image - Same Sex Holding Hands Original
Date Commenced:
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Project Members: 
image - 1314150283 John Howard
Dr John Howard
Conjoint Senior Lecturer
Project Main Description: 

The young male same sex attracted population has been reported to have a suicide attempt rate 3-6 times higher than that found in the same age range in the non SSA population, and higher levels of mental health concerns. The reasons behind this are still poorly understood but it is thought that many complex factors are involved, including substance use, the availability of adequate support services, social stigma including the family and friend’s reaction or fear of what this reaction might be, mental illness, abuse (including emotional, physical and sexual) and many others. A better understanding of these factors may lead to the availability of better support services for young SSA attracted people with the goal of reducing the high suicide attempt rate and other comorbidity.


This project aimed to:

  • Increase understanding of the relationships between sexuality, mental health and substance use among this marginalised group of young people, where there is evidence of elevated risk for substance use and suicidality.
  • Increase understanding of coping strategies employed by SSA young males.
  • Increase knowledge about how the ‘coming out’ process, substance use, suicidality and other mental health concerns intersect and interact.
  • Inform strategies and interventions to assist ACON and others providing services to SSA young people to refine and shape more effective interventions for mental health, substance use and co-occurring disorders.
Design and Method: 

The study used a quantitative study using a self-administered questionnaire with 21 SSA and 41 non-SSA young males aged 18-24.


Higher suicidality was found in those who reported abuse compared to those with no abuse, and across all categories of sexuality. In contrast to previous studies, significantly higher levels of substance use for most substances, and earlier initiation of use for many substances was found among the heterosexual group, with significantly higher mean Severity of Dependence Scale scores in this group compared to the same-sex attracted group. Sample bias impacted the ability to complete analyses.




Findings stimulate further research on possible reductions in substance use and comorbidity among same-sex attracted youth.

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