Background: Sexual minority youth may be at elevated risk for alcohol use relative to heterosexual youth, but the reasons underlying higher rates and whether there may be gender differences in risk are not known.
Methods: Cross-sectional survey data from 9731 early and middle adolescent girls and boys in the Growing Up Today Study in 1999 were examined to assess sexual orientation and gender patterns in alcohol use. Multivariable regression models estimated associations between sexual orientation and alcohol-related behaviors, such as binge drinking and drinking before age 12 years. Models controlled for sociodemographic and psychosocial factors, with heterosexuals as the reference.
Results: Girls who described themselves as "mostly heterosexual" and lesbian/bisexual girls were at elevated risk compared to heterosexual girls on almost all alcohol-related behaviors and exposures. "Mostly heterosexual" boys were also at elevated risk. No significant differences in alcohol-related behaviors were observed between gay/bisexual and heterosexual boys. Gender-by-sexual orientation interactions were statistically significant for LGB but not other orientations, indicating that lesbian/bisexual girls experienced elevated risk above and beyond that of gay/bisexual boys relative to same-gender heterosexual peers.
Conclusions: In early and middle adolescence, sexual minority girls and "mostly heterosexual" boys experienced consistent patterns of elevated risk for alcohol use.