Disparities in smoking and acute respiratory illnesses among sexual minority young adults

Lung. 2010 Oct;188(5):401-7. doi: 10.1007/s00408-010-9244-5. Epub 2010 May 23.


Morbidity and mortality from cigarette smoking remain major public health issues. Particularly, smoking has been associated with increased risk of acute respiratory illnesses (ARIs). Literature indicates that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (i.e., sexual minority) persons smoke more than the general population. Additionally, young adulthood is the second-most prevalent period of smoking uptake. Given this constellation of risk correlates, the authors examined whether sexual minority young adults experience increased odds of ARIs (i.e., strep throat, bronchitis, sinus infection, and asthma). Using cross-sectional data from the Spring 2006 National College Health Assessment, prevalence estimates of smoking were generated among young adult (age range, 18-24 years) lesbian/gay, bisexual, unsure, and heterosexual college students (n = 75,164). Nested logistic regression analyses were used to examine whether smoking status mediated the risk of ARIs among sexual orientation groups. Compared with heterosexual smokers, gay/lesbian smokers were more likely to have had strep throat, and bisexual smokers were more likely to have had sinus infection, asthma, and bronchitis. Whereas smoking mediated the risk of ARI, sexual minorities still showed higher odds of ARIs after adjustment for smoking. Sexual minority young adults may experience respiratory health disparities that may be linked to their higher smoking rates, and their higher rates of smoking lend urgency to the need for cessation interventions. Future studies are needed to explore whether chronic respiratory disease caused by smoking (i.e., lung cancer, COPD, emphysema) disproportionately affect sexual minority populations.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Bisexuality / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Homosexuality / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minority Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult