Objective: Research has demonstrated a high frequency and intensity of alcohol use among lesbian women. This work explores age differences in risk factors for problematic alcohol use among self-identified Southern lesbians. Risk factors of interest include depression, general stress, and three measures of sexual minority stress (i.e., experiences of discrimination, lesbian/gay-related stigma, and internalized homophobia).
Method: We analyze data from the Lesbian Social Life study, which recruited 1,141 self-identified Southern lesbians for participation in an anonymous Web-based survey. We present results from a series of regression models predicting scores on the CAGE scale, a self-reported measure of problematic alcohol use. Results are reported separately by age group (19-29, 30-49, >or=50).
Results: Frequent and intense alcohol use was most common among lesbian women ages 19-29. Depression and stress were the most consistent psychosocial correlates of problematic alcohol use, although these patterns varied by age. Each of the minority stress measures was associated with problematic alcohol use, although no clear age-related pattern appeared.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that depression and stress are strong predictors of problematic alcohol use among lesbians, which is comparable to previous findings in heterosexual populations. Additional research is needed to understand how the association between sexual minority stress and problematic alcohol use changes across the life course.