Research & Resources

A Nationally Representative Study of Sexual Orientation and High-Risk Drinking from Adolescence to Young Adulthood

In this study, researchers sought to determine whether peer drunkenness and parental knowledge about their adolescent’s whereabouts, behaviors, and depressive symptoms contribute to sexual orientation disparities in high-risk drinking behaviors. Researchers analyzed longitudinal survey data from 2,051 adolescents who participated in the NEXT Generation Health Study. They used the data to test for indirect effects linking sexual orientation in 11th grade to past 30-day heavy episodic drinking (HED) over 6 years and past-year high-intensity binge drinking at 4 years after high school. The results showed that sexual minority males were not more likely to engage in high-risk drinking than heterosexual males. By contrast, sexual minority females were more likely than heterosexual females to engage in HED when they were in 11th grade, in part because of lower parental knowledge of their whereabouts, behaviors, and depressive symptoms. Sexual minority females also had a greater number of depressive symptoms during the transition from adolescence to young adulthood, which was associated with greater risk of high-intensity binge drinking in young adulthood. Peer drunkenness was a strong risk factor for HED and high-intensity binge drinking among both males and females. These results suggest developmentally sensitive opportunities to mitigate sexual orientation disparities in high-risk drinking.

This paper, “A nationally representative study of sexual orientation and high-risk drinking from adolescence to young adulthood,” was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and published in the Journal of adolescent health.

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