Sexual Minority Youth at Risk of Early and Persistent Alcohol, Tobacco, and Marijuana Use

  • Amelia E. TalleyEmail author
  • Blair Turner
  • Anthony M. Foster
  • Gregory PhillipsII
Original Paper


The current study sought to examine substance use disparities among sexual minority youth. The current subsample of 348,175 students participated in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) study from years 2005 to 2015 (biennially) in jurisdictions that asked at least one question about sexual minority status. Latent class analysis was used to identify implicit classes of sexual minority youth, based on respondents’ sexual identity and sexual behavior. Sex-stratified regression models were run to determine the association between class membership and age of onset and persistent use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. Findings showed that sexual minority female subgroups were primarily distinguished by sexual identity (e.g., “lesbian,” “bisexual”), whereas sexual minority male subgroups were primarily distinguished by sexual behavior. Female lesbian and bisexual youth were at risk of initiating substance use at younger ages and, among lifetime users, were more likely to persist in their tobacco and marijuana use over time, relative to sexually active female heterosexual youth. Among lifetime users, male youth with partners of both sexes were at greater risk of persistent use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana over time and earlier ages of first use. Recommendations for intervention and prevention programs geared toward reducing sexual minority youth substance use are provided.


Substance use Adolescent Sexual orientation Sexual behavior Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System 



This study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R01 AA024409).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amelia E. Talley
    • 1
    Email author
  • Blair Turner
    • 2
  • Anthony M. Foster
    • 1
  • Gregory PhillipsII
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychological SciencesTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  2. 2.Department of Medical Social SciencesNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA

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