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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Maryland: Study Finds Stress and Discrimination Linked to Higher Substance Use Disorders in Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Persons

Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) persons have a higher prevalence of substance use disorders than heterosexual people due to stressful life events and discrimination according to a new paper co-authored by University of Maryland School of Public Health assistant professor of family science, Dr. Jessica Fish.

The paper, published last week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, explores sexual-orientation disparities in alcohol, cannabis and tobacco use disorders.

Using a nationally representative survey, Dr. Fish and co-authors found that in addition to stress generated from blatant acts of discrimination, everyday stressors – such as unemployment, interpersonal problems, property destruction, homelessness – also contribute to an LGB person’s formation of substance abuse.

The study also found that different levels of stressors do not affect each subgroup of LGB in the same way. Lesbian and gay individuals, for example, were more likely to develop substance use disorders due to discrimination. In contrast, bisexual people were more likely to experience substance abuse in conjunction with everyday stressors. 

Acknowledging the role everyday stressors play in substance abuse is important, Dr. Fish believes, because while anti-discrimination laws have been shown to reduce rates of discrimination and victimization, it is much harder to police cultural factors that shape everyday interactions.

Addressing microaggressions and other everyday factors that induce stress for LGB people will demand new intervention and prevention strategies, said Dr. Fish, unique from those in place for overt discrimination.

The paper was authored Drs. by Evan A. Krueger, Jessica N. Fish and Dawn M. Upchurch.

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