Background and significance: Tobacco and alcohol use and related morbidity and mortality are critical public health problems. Results of several, but not all, studies suggest that lesbians and gay men are at elevated risk for smoking tobacco and alcohol misuse.
Methods: Data from random sample general health surveys of adult members of a large Northern California Health Plan conducted in 1999 and 2002 were analyzed using gender-based multivariate logistic regression models to assess whether lesbians (n = 210) and gay men (n = 331) aged 20-65 were more likely than similarly aged heterosexual women (n = 12,188) and men (n = 9342) to be smokers and heavy drinkers.
Results: After adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, education, and survey year, lesbians were significantly more likely than heterosexual women to be heavy drinkers (OR 2.14, 95% CI 1.08, 4.23) and current smokers (OR 1.60, 95% CI 1.02, 2.51). Among men, gays were significantly more likely than heterosexuals to be current smokers (OR 2.40, 95% CI 1.75, 3.30), with borderline significant increased risk for heavy drinking (OR 1.54, 95% CI 0.96, 2.45).
Conclusion: Lesbians and gay men may be at increased risk for morbidity and mortality due to higher levels of cigarette and alcohol use. More population-based research is needed to understand the nature of substance use in these communities so that appropriate interventions can be developed.