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BC teens drinking less, but LGB rates declining more slowly

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Summary

Teen drinking continues to decline in British Columbia, according to a study from UBC

While consumption is down across all groups, it’s declining more slowly for lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Teen drinking continues to decline in British Columbia, but a study has found gay, lesbian and bisexual teens are tipping back more than their straight peers.

Teens of all sexual orientations are drinking less alcohol compared to young people in the late 1990s, according to a University of British Columbia study. It’s one of the first studies to compare trends in alcohol use among straight and sexual minority youth.

Study senior author and UBC nursing professor Elizabeth Saewyc says while consumption is down across all groups, it’s declining more slowly for lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) teens.

“For the most part that gap still persists, we’re not seeing a lot of change. And in fact when it comes to bisexual girls, we’re actually seeing a widening gap,” she says.

Researchers analyzed data from the BC Adolescent Health Survey, which captured data from almost 100,000 students in grades 7-12 across BC between 1998 and 2013.

The proportion of straight boys who had used alcohol at least once dropped from 66 per cent in 1998 to 45 per cent by 2013. For straight girls, it fell from 62 per cent to 44 per cent. Alcohol use among gay males also dropped, from 73 per cent to 57 per cent. Lesbian girls are also drinking less, although the decline is less marked. Binge drinking has declined across all sexual orientations.

But LGB youth still had proportionally higher odds of drinking in every year that data was collected. In 2013, 57 per cent of gay males drank alcohol at least once, compared with 45 per cent of straight boys. 65 per cent of lesbian girls drank, versus 44 per cent of their straight counterparts.

Saewyc says higher drinking rates are linked to stigma, discrimination and homophobic bullying.

“We’ve seen changes in society and laws but that may take longer to sort of trickle down into high schools, where, remember, one of the biggest issues for teenagers is their identity.”

She says regardless of sexual orientation, supportive schools and families, combined with strong messaging about the hazards of alcohol abuse are a recipe for less teen drinking.