Researchers estimate that 3% of the world male population is homosexual. The percentage is higher in cities because many young gays move there once they become adults for a better social life and fewer risks of discrimination. The sociodemographic portrait of our survey participants is of a mostly young adult population with higher levels of education than the Swiss median. Common knowledge on health determinants dictates they should also be healthier than the general population. This, however, is not the case. On the contrary, specific health vulnerabilities were identified that affect them.
Age plays an important role in health. Risks vary according to age groups. There are illnesses typical of childhood and others that more often affect the elderly. Gay and bisexual men between 20 and 44 years of age are largely over-represented in our surveys. This is a logical consequence of the sampling method given that participants were recruited in “gay scene” establishments. While 15-24 young men are represented, this is not the case of people over 50 who visit meeting places less frequently and often still “live in the closet”. 20-40 year-old men are generally a very healthy population. This is not, however, the case of a significant sector of gay men.
Popular wisdom dictates that it is better to be young, rich and healthy than poor, elderly and sick. Health experts refer to social determinants of health and know that aspects such as social status, poverty and level of education play a very important role in health. The number of participants who had been through higher education (university/college) is much higher than in the general Swiss population. The Canton of Geneva has a higher proportion of inhabitants with a university education but this is a common trend in most surveys of gay men throughout the world. We could put forth the hypothesis that meeting places in the gay scene are mostly visited by middle-class men within the community.
The Canton of Geneva is bordered by the Canton of Vaud and two French departments; Ain and Haute Savoie. Numerous residents of France and Vaud come to Geneva for work or leisure. Many gays in Geneva also patronize gay establishments in Lausanne, the capital of Vaud. We also recruited survey participants at certain gay establishments in Lausanne. This particular situation is duly reflected on the graph. Our research findings thus reflect the health of gay men in both Geneva itself and the Lake Geneva area in general.
Almost 60% of gay men live in a big city. Many young gays move to a city upon reaching adulthood to benefit from meeting places, a wider social network and greater anonymity
Geneva is an international canton with a large foreign population (around 40%). In these surveys, 32 nationalities were represented and 36% of the participants were of foreign origin. The most represented foreign nationalities were from France (17.6%) and Italy (6.5%) which were the second and third most-represented foreign countries of origin after Portugal.
Almost 60% of gay and bisexual men live alone and less than 20% live with a male partner. While living with a partner is not necessarily the best way to build a long-lasting relationship, living alone entails major risks for one’s physical and mental health, particularly when it comes to accident or illness. Living alone can also make it more difficult to control addictive behaviors such as tobacco, alcohol, other drugs or online addiction.
Although they have a higher level of education, the percentage of senior staff is almost the same as in the rest of Switzerland.
Even though Geneva salaries are among the highest in Switzerland, the median salaries of gay and bisexual men (5,000 CHF/month) are lower than for the general population of men in Switzerland (5,500 CHF/month) in 2002.
In order to participate in the survey, the men recruited had to define themselves as gay or bisexual or having had sexual relationships with men. When asked about their sexual orientation, this is how the participants responded. The 1% of the participants who consider themselves heterosexual can plausibly be included in the group of men who have sex with men (MSM) even though they do not consider themselves gay or bisexual.