IRWG Faculty Receive NIH Grant to Study Tobacco Use, Discrimination, and Health in the LGBT Population

photograph of a lit cigarette on a black background
photograph of a lit cigarette on a black background

IRWG researchers, Sean Esteban McCabe (primary investigator), Carol Boyd, and Philip Veliz (co-investigators), were awarded funding from the National Institutes of Health for their project titled, “Health, Stress, and Tobacco Use Disparities among Sexual Minority Populations.” This study will assess the relationships among sexual orientation, discrimination, stress, tobacco/nicotine use behaviors, and DSM-5 tobacco use disorder in the U.S.

There is a growing body of research indicating that lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals (sexual minorities) are at heightened risk of cigarette smoking, e-cigarette use, and other tobacco/nicotine use. Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S., including an estimated 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure.

To date, no large-scale nationally representative studies have examined tobacco-related health disparities among sexual minorities. Moreover, data on comorbidity of DSM-5 tobacco use disorder (TUD) and mental health disorders among sexual minorities is severely lacking. To address these gaps, we propose a study that will greatly advance our understanding of the relationships among sexual orientation, discrimination, stress, and DSM-5 TUD. Health risks vary across sexual orientation subgroups, particularly those related to tobacco/nicotine use and other substance use, but very little work has focused on why these health disparities exist. The absence of explanatory frameworks hampers the ability to effectively prevent, mitigate or treat DSM-5 TUD and other DSM-5 mental health disorders in at-risk populations. To this end, researchers will consider the role of stressful life events (e.g., death of a family member), sexual orientation discrimination (individual-level and institutional-level), co-morbid mental health disorders and other key risk/resilience factors as possible contributors to the risk of DSM-5 TUD (including nicotine and tobacco products).

Findings from this project will greatly enhance the understanding of tobacco/nicotine use and DSM-5 TUD among sexual minorities in the U.S., and will provide critical information for enhancing assessment, prevention and treatment of this disorder among sexual minority and heterosexual adults.

Read more about the study.

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