Young people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are twice as likely to have smoked than their heterosexual peers, according to new research published in BMJ Open. Lesbian and gay young people were also more likely to drink alcohol frequently and more hazardously.
The interdisciplinary research team comprised researchers from five UK Universities (UCL, University of Cambridge, London Metropolitan University, De Montfort University Leicester and Brunel University), a doctor working in General Practice and a consultant from Public Health England.
The researchers looked at data from over 7,600 participants collected from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England. This representative sample of school pupils entered the study at age 13/14 and were followed for five years. All the participants were asked about their cigarette smoking and alcohol use. At age 18/19, they were asked about their sexual identity. This is the first UK study in which representative data has been available. Most previous research in this area has come from the US.
Young people who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual (3.5% of the sample) were around twice as likely as heterosexuals to have smoked during the follow-up.
Gay or lesbian participants were more likely to say that they drank alcohol frequently (more than weekly), and report hazardous alcohol drinking patterns (frequent intoxication).
Bisexual participants were more likely to have smoked but had similar alcohol use patterns to their heterosexual peers.