Are alcohol-related disparities between sexual minority and heterosexual youth decreasing?

Jessica N. Fish, Ryan J. Watson, Carolyn M. Porta, Stephen T. Russell, Elizabeth M. Saewyc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Background and Aims: Although sexual orientation-related alcohol use disparities are well established, researchers have not identified whether disparities are diminishing as societal attitudes towards lesbian/gay and bisexual (LGB) people become more accepting. We examined changes in four alcohol-related disparities between heterosexual and LGB youth from 1998 to 2013 by (1) estimating the prevalence of these behaviors; (2) estimating disparities in alcohol-related outcomes between heterosexual and LGB youth within each wave year; and (3) testing whether the degree of difference in alcohol-related disparities between heterosexual and LGB youth has changed. Design: Logistic regression models and year × sexual orientation interactions with repeated, cross-sectional, provincially representative data. Setting: British Columbia, Canada. Participants: Students (ages 12–19) from the 1998 (n = 22 858), 2003 (n = 29 323), 2008 (n = 25 254) and 2013 (n = 21 938) British Columbia Adolescent Health Survey (total n = 99 373, 48.7% male, mean age = 14.84). Measurements: We modeled age-adjusted differences in life-time alcohol use, age of onset, past 30-day drinking and past 30-day heavy episodic drinking between heterosexual and three subgroups of sexual minority youth (i.e. mostly heterosexual, bisexual and lesbian/gay). Findings: Generally, alcohol use declined for all youth, although less so among LGB youth [average adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 0.58 and aOR = 0.53 for heterosexual males and females and aOR = 0.71 and aOR = 0.57 for sexual minority males and females, respectively). Within-year comparisons demonstrated elevated rates of alcohol use among LGB compared with heterosexual youth for each of the four survey years, especially among females. Findings indicate few changes over time; however, results show an increase in risky alcohol use from 1998 to 2013 among mostly heterosexual (aOR = 1.58 for life-time alcohol use, aOR = 1.58 for 30-day alcohol use and aOR = 1.34 for 30-day heavy episodic drinking), and bisexual (aOR = 1.95 for life-time alcohol use) females. Conclusion: Despite the general decline in the prevalence of alcohol use among young people in Canada since 1998, lesbian/gay and bisexual youth in Canada continue to show elevated rates of alcohol use compared with heterosexual youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1931-1941
Number of pages11
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Adolescents
  • LGB
  • alcohol
  • disparities
  • school health surveys
  • sexual minority

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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