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Study: LGBT Collegiates at Higher Risk for Alcoholism

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A new study shows that LGBT college students who either personally experience anti-gay discrimination or witness such harassment on their campuses are at an increased risk for alcoholism.

Researchers at the University of Michigan collected data from an anonymous online survey taken by roughly 2500 students, 451 of which self-identified as sexual minorities.

Lead author Michael Woodford and his team specifically asked participants if they had experienced any form of mistreatment within the last year and if they had seen or heard of any similar incidents. They then used that information to contrast the experiences of heterosexual and LGBT students.

Woodford says his group wanted to focus on “incivility,” or the “everyday” forms of discrimination, that could lead sexual minority collegiates to turn to substance abuse.

WOODFORD: What I find interesting about the incivility piece is that, it may happen fairly regularly, more so than being threatened, for example, or being bullied, and it could be just this continual sort of reminder that, ‘I’m a minority, that I’m part of a stigmatized group on campus and beyond,’ and that in turn may contribute to increased feelings of stress.

Woodford says LGBT students are MORE likely to become victims of such disrespectful behavior than their straight counterparts, which could ultimately impact their drinking habits. He adds that witnessing such abuse could also influence a sexual minority student’s alcoholism.

Woodford says he hopes policy makers, college administrators and students alike will take his study’s results and work on creating an environment of “mutual respect” on campus.

The findings appear in the journal Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation.

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