Differences in Substance Use Disparities Across Age Groups in a National Cross-Sectional Survey of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults

Published in: LGBT Health, Volume 6, Number 2, (2019). doi: 10.1089/lgbt.2018.0125

Posted on RAND.org on February 12, 2019

by Megan S. Schuler, Bradley D. Stein, Rebecca L. Collins

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Purpose

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adults have elevated rates of substance use (SU) relative to heterosexual adults, yet the extent to which these disparities vary across age groups is unknown. Using national survey data, we test for age group differences in lifetime and recent SU disparities among LGB adults.

Methods

Using data on 67,354 adults (including 4868 LGB adults) from the 2015 and 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), we examined LGB disparities for measures of lifetime and recent use of cigarettes, marijuana, and illicit drugs. Analyses were stratified by age groups (18–25, 26–34, and 35–49 years) and compared lesbian/gay (L/G) and bisexual adults, respectively, with heterosexual adults of the same gender and age group.

Results

Using data on 67,354 adults (including 4868 LGB adults) from the 2015 to 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), we examined LGB disparities in lifetime and recent use of cigarettes, marijuana, and illicit drugs. Analyses were stratified by age groups (18–25, 26–34, and 35–49 years) and compared lesbian/gay (L/G) and bisexual adults, respectively, with heterosexual adults of the same gender and age group.

Conclusion

Contrary to hypotheses of decreased minority stress among more recent generations of LGB individuals, we found that SU disparities were not systematically smaller in younger age groups. Rather, disparities exhibited distinct trends across age groups. As NSDUH data are cross-sectional, differences by age group may reflect the influence of both age-varying developmental factors as well as time-varying social and contextual factors.

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