Religious climate and health risk behaviors in sexual minority youths: a population-based study

Am J Public Health. 2012 Apr;102(4):657-63. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300517. Epub 2012 Feb 16.


Objectives: We examined whether the health risk behaviors of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youths are determined in part by the religious composition of the communities in which they live.

Methods: Data were collected from 31,852 high school students, including 1413 LGB students, who participated in the Oregon Healthy Teens survey in 2006 through 2008. Supportive religious climate was operationalized according to the proportion of individuals (of the total number of religious adherents) who adhere to a religion supporting homosexuality. Comprehensive data on religious climate were derived from 85 denominational groups in 34 Oregon counties.

Results: Among LGB youths, living in a county with a religious climate that was supportive of homosexuality was associated with significantly fewer alcohol abuse symptoms (odds ratio [OR] = 0.58; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.40, 0.85) and fewer sexual partners (OR = 0.77; 95% CI = 0.60, 0.99). The effect of religious climate on health behaviors was stronger among LGB than heterosexual youths. Results remained robust after adjustment for multiple confounding factors.

Conclusions: The religious climate surrounding LGB youths may serve as a determinant of their health risk behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Surveys
  • Homosexuality, Female / psychology
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oregon / epidemiology
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Smoking / epidemiology*