Sexual Identity, Stigma, and Depression: the Role of the “Anti-gay Propaganda Law” in Mental Health among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Moscow, Russia

Emily Hylton, Andrea L. Wirtz, Carla E. Zelaya, Carl Latkin, Alena Peryshkina, Vladmir Mogilnyi, Petr Dzhigun, Irina Kostetskaya, Noya Galai, Chris Beyrer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Depression is a major public health problem in the Russian Federation and is particularly of concern for men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM living in Moscow City were recruited via respondent-driven sampling and participated in a cross-sectional survey from October 2010 to April 2013. Multiple logistic regression models compared the relationship between sexual identity, recent stigma, and probable depression, defined as a score of ≥23 on the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale. We investigated the interactive effect of stigma and participation in the study after the passage of multiple “anti-gay propaganda laws” in Russian provinces, municipalities, and in neighboring Ukraine on depression among MSM. Among 1367 MSM, 36.7% (n = 505) qualified as probably depressed. Fifty-five percent identified as homosexual (n = 741) and 42.9% identified as bisexual (n = 578). Bisexual identity had a protective association against probable depression (reference: homosexual identity AOR 0.71; 95%CI 0.52–0.97; p < 0.01). Those who experienced recent stigma (last 12 months) were more likely to report probable depression (reference: no stigma; AOR 1.75; 95%CI 1.20–2.56; p < 0.01). The interaction between stigma and the propaganda laws was significant. Among participants with stigma, probable depression increased 1.67-fold after the passage of the anti-gay laws AOR 1.67; 95%CI 1.04–2.68; p < 0.01). Depressive symptoms are common among MSM in Russia and exacerbated by stigma and laws that deny homosexual identities. Repeal of Russia’s federal anti-gay propaganda law is urgent but other social interventions may address depression and stigma in the current context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-329
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, The New York Academy of Medicine.


  • Bisexuality
  • Criminal law
  • Depression
  • Homosexuality
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Russian Federation
  • Stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Urban Studies


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