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University of Texas at Austin

Substance Abuse Research Development Program
for Underserved Populations

Social Risk Factors Associated with Substance Abuse Among Gay and Lesbian Youth

Investigators:Yolanda C. Padilla, Ph.D., James Alan Neff, Ph.D., MPH, Lynn Rew, Ph.D., Catherine Crisp, Ph.D.

Current Project Status and Findings

The purpose of this project is to conduct a pilot study to examine substance use among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth and determine the social risk factors and protective factors associated with its use across multiple contexts: individual, family, and community. The study is based on a quantitative analysis of the Internet Survey of Queer and Questioning Youth (OutProud, the National Coalition for GLBT Youth), a national data set of 5281 gay, lesbian, bisexual and questioning (GLB/Q) youth aged 25 and under. We confined our study to GLB youth between the ages of 13 and 18 and who were currently enrolled in high school. In this study, substance use is defined as the use of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, or alcohol in the past 30 days.

Our preliminary findings showed that 44% of GLB youth reported substance use within the past 30 days, with the highest proportion among bisexual youth, 50%. A very high proportion of GLB youth, 60%, reported that they had seriously thought about suicide, and 60% believed that their sexual orientation will be an obstacle in their life. In terms of their family life, only 36% had come out to a parent, but this varied greatly according to sexual orientation: 41% of gay youth, 56% of lesbian youth, and 22% of bisexual youth. A full 46% felt that their parent's religious beliefs made it difficult for them to come out to them. Finally, while 77% indicated that they knew other GLB youth and 42% indicated that they felt part of the GLB community, only 16% belonged to a GLB youth group. Logistic regression analyzing the odds of substance use among GLB youth as a function of individual, family, and community variables (see Table 1) showed that the odds of substance use was significantly higher for bisexual youth, older youth, and youth who reported suicidal ideation. On the other hand, youth who believed that sexual orientation would be an obstacle in life were less likely to use substances, while youth who knew other GLB youth had a greater odds of using substances.

Table 1. Logistic Regression of Substance Use Among GLB Youth as a Function of Individual, Family, and Community Factors

Padilla graph

a. Reference category is Lesbian.*p <.05,**p<.01, ***p <.001

Supported by a grant from the Center for Health Promotion Research (CHPR), University of Texas School of Nursing. (Margaret Taylor, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Pomeroy, Ph.D, Co-Investigators)

Publications and Presentations:

Abstract available here

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