Substance Use Among Adolescent Sexual Minority Athletes


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photograph of a person kicking a soccer ball
photograph of a person kicking a soccer ball

IRWG Researchers Carol J. Boyd, Sean Esteban McCabe, and Philp Veliz recently published a secondary analysis of the youth risk behavior survey in Addictive Behaviors Reports, an open-access and peer reviewed online-only journal offering an interdisciplinary forum for the publication of research in addictive behaviors.

The study uses data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2009-2013) which assessed adolescents' past 30-day use of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana among sexual minority athletes, heterosexual athletes, heterosexual non-athletes, and sexual minority non-athletes. While a robust literature exists regarding substance use patterns among adolescent athletes, no studies have examined substance use among adolescent sexual minority athletes; a subpopulation of adolescents that may experience greater rates of substance use due to their marginalized status within the context of sport.

Approximately 4% of the sample included athletes who identified as a sexual minority (3.7% males and 5.3% females). While the bivariate analyses found that sexual minority athletes had higher past 30-day prevalence rates of substance use when compared to heterosexual athletes and non-athletes, these rates were similar to sexual minority non-athletes. Moreover, when demographic characteristics and history of substance use were included in the multivariate analytic models, many of these differences were no longer statistically significant. These results were generally consistent for both males and females.

The results of the study suggest that the context of sport may not be an additional site for stress among adolescent athletes who identify as a sexual minority, and subsequently may have little impact on substance use behaviors. However, participating in sport may not serve as a protective context for adolescent sexual minorities given that substance use behaviors may be learned and reinforced.

Read the full report.

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