Alcohol and drug use is more common among older adults who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual than among their straight counterparts, a new study finds.
For the study, New York University (NYU) researchers analyzed 25,880 responses from adults aged 50 and older who participated in a nationwide survey on alcohol and drug use between 2015 and 2017. Of the participants, 2.5% identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
Participants were asked about past-year use of substances such as marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, and methamphetamine, as well as nonmedical use of prescription opioids, sedatives, stimulants, and tranquilizers.
LGBTQ adults were more than twice as likely as heterosexuals to use recreational marijuana (13.9% versus 5.5%), and twice as likely to use prescription tranquilizers nonmedically (3.6% versus 1.1%). They were also more likely to use prescription opioids nonmedically (4.7% versus 2.3%).
Previous research has shown that LGBTQ teens and young adults are more likely to use substances than their straight counterparts.
"Our research confirms that a higher prevalence of substance use among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults can continue into later life," said lead author Dr. Benjamin Han. "Such prevalence may be related to stressors like discrimination and stigma based on sexual orientation in addition to stressors related to aging, including social isolation and age-related stigma."
Han is an assistant professor in the division of geriatric medicine and palliative care at NYU Langone Health in New York City.
Senior author Joseph Palamar, an associate professor of population health, said the findings should be used to buttress prevention and harm reduction and not to stigmatize.
"We hope that this new research, published during Pride Month, will remind people about the stressors many people still face in 2020 based on their sexual orientation," Palamar said in a university news release.