Sexual minorities are more likely to engage in risky coping mechanisms such as having unprotected sex, drinking and smoking
Sexual minorities who experience social rejection are more likely to be drawn to risky behaviours – or coping mechanisms – according to research published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review.
Sexual minorities are individuals whose sexual orientation, gender identity, or sexual characteristics are different from the presumed majority of the population, which are heterosexual, cisgender, and non-intersex individuals. Primarily it is a term used to describe gay, lesbian, bisexual and non-heterosexual people.
Professor Nick Drydakis, of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), investigated the link between the perceived ostracisation of sexual minorities and alcohol, tobacco and cannabis consumption and unprotected sexual intercourse.
Analysis of 866 survey responses found that experiencing rejection by friends, mistreated an education, workplace or by public services – is associated with a 9.1% increase in the consumption of tobacco, a 7.1% increase in the consumption of alcohol and a 12.5% increase in the use of cannabis. LGBTQ+ men and women are 6.5% more likely to have unprotected sexual intercourse as well.
Ostracisation is linked to risky coping mechanisms
Men are particularly prone to increases in consumption. The association between social ostracisation and drinking is 12.3% higher in men than in women. For consumption of cannabis, the association is 9.5% higher in men than for women, and for tobacco it is 20.6% higher in men than women.
During times of financial hardship, such as economic recessions, the consumption of cannabis increased by 5.5%.
One of the first studies to investigate the link between sexual minorities and deteriorated economic conditions
Drydakis comments: “This is among the first international studies to investigate the association between social rejection of minorities and deteriorated economic conditions.
“Results suggest that sexual minorities appear to be more likely to turn to smoking, drinking and cannabis use to buffer the negative effects of stress associated with rejection, victimisation, and internalised stigma.
“In the general population, these behaviours increase public health risks such as overdose, accidental injury and attempted suicide. Clearly if we are serious in Western society about reducing health inequalities, policymakers should look closely at increasing efforts to reduce social stigma and provide more support for vulnerable groups.”
The research was carried out in Athens, Greece over the periods 2013/14, a time of economic hardship, and 2018/19.