HIV-Positive Gay Men in Rural Areas More Likely to Experience Depression Than Those Living in Cities, Study Says
HIV-positive gay men living in rural areas face an increased risk of developing depression compared to HIV-positive gay men living in metropolitan areas, due to a lack of social support, according to a research survey published in the March issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Reuters Health reports. Lead author Philip Ullrich, a doctoral candidate at the University of Iowa, said that previous research that indicated that HIV-positive gay people may face increased social stigma and negative attitudes in rural areas compared with metropolitan areas prompted the survey about HIV-related depression. Ullrich and his colleagues surveyed 121 HIV-positive patients living in both metropolitan areas -- defined as a county with a population of at least 100,000 containing a city with at least 50,000 residents -- and non-metropolitan areas. The survey questioned patients about HIV-related stress, feelings of depression and their "perceived level of social constraints," such as their ability to find friends and peer groups with whom to discuss their HIV status. The researchers found that HIV-positive gay men in rural areas were more depressed and had an increased number of social constraints than HIV-positive gay men in metropolitan areas. The survey analysis indicated that higher levels of depression among HIV-positive gay men in rural areas were due to the way these men "viewed their social environment," Ullrich said, adding, "If they were in environments where they couldn't talk about HIV, they had higher levels of depression." He added that health care providers in rural settings should be aware that HIV-positive gay men could "be at a greater risk of mental health problems" and that HIV-positive patients "should consider finding ways to reach out to people." Ullrich concluded, "If a person can talk with others about the stressors of HIV, they'll adjust better. It allows people to re-evaluate themselves and their world and gain control over their emotions" (Schorr, Reuters Health, 3/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.