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Young Homosexuals More Likely to Smoke and Drink

Update Date: Aug 29, 2013 01:18 PM EDT

Young homosexuals are more likely to smoke or drink alcohol, according to a new study.

British researchers found that young lesbian and gay people are twice as likely to smoke or consume alcohol compared to their heterosexual counterparts.

 The study involved data from over 7,600 participants who were part of the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England. The participants entered the study at 13 or 14 years and were followed for five years. All participants were asked about their smoking and alcohol use, and at age 18 and 19 they were asked about their sexual identity.

The findings revealed that gay or lesbian participants were more likely to report drinking alcohol frequently and hazardous alcohol drinking patterns. While bisexual participants were more likely to have smoked, they had similar alcohol use patterns to their heterosexual peers, according to researcher.

"Our research shows that despite recent social change, young people today who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual are twice as likely to have smoked as their heterosexual peers. Gay and lesbian young people also appear to have more frequent and more hazardous alcohol drinking patterns than heterosexuals," lead researcher Dr. Gareth Hagger-Johnson, from the UCL Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said in a news release.

"Smoking and drinking alcohol frequently and hazardously can lead to chronic disease in later life, and so we should be worried about these health inequalities in this minority group and the longer term consequences they may face," he added.

"From a public health perspective, we need to understand why young gay, lesbian and bisexual people are more likely to engage in risky health behaviours than their heterosexual peers," said Hagger-Johnson.

"This will need to involve longitudinal research, following a large sample of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people over time. We are concerned that 'minority stress', resulting from homophobia and heterosexism, might lead people to self-medicate symptoms of anxiety and depression with cigarettes and alcohol," he concluded.

The findings are published in the journal BMJ Open.

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