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Alcohol harm in the context of sexual orientation and transgender identity

At least two academic publications have been released recently on the subject of alcohol harm in the context of sexual orientation and transgender identity, one of them by SHAAP (1) (Eurocare’s member) in partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), and the other one by researchers from the University of Georgia (USA) (2), published by Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

SHAAP’s report was based on interviews carried out with focus groups in Scotland, where researchers explain that although alcohol-related deaths rates are continuing to decline, they are still almost the figure is still double of the one for England and Wales. The researchers also point out that alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms are not evenly distributed across the population, and that besides socio-economic status, gender (identity) and sexual orientation are also related to drinking behaviour and outcomes.

SHAAP’s report includes findings which suggest that drinking alcohol is an important part of identity construction, i.e. individuals from the different groups adapt drinking choices according to the image they want to portray. It also suggests that, quite often, medical services assume that patients are heterosexual, and that patients worry that when they disclose their sexual orientation or transgender identity, clinicians might make incorrect assumptions about life style.

In the other research, this time carried out in the United States, the researchers from the University of Georgia used data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol Related Conditions (NESRAC) to look into the possible reasons as to why gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) individuals, when compared to heterosexual individuals, appear to have an increased likelihood of alcohol use disorders, while treatment utilisation remain low.

The American research indicates that GLB individuals report higher severity for alcohol use disorders, when compared to heterosexual people, and that bisexual individuals report significantly more barriers to access treatment than gays and lesbians.

In their conclusions, both papers discuss implications for service providers, and their recommendations include the provision of diversity training, as well as the need to identify and develop interventions that address treatment barriers associated with alcohol by GLB populations.

Please see below the full details of the publications.

(1) Emslie, C., Lennox, J. and Ireland, L., 2016. The social context of LGBT people’s drinking in Scotland. GCU and SHAAP

(2) Lloyd Alen, J. and Mowbray, O., 2016. Sexual orientation, treatment utilization and barriers for alcohol related problems: findings from a nationally representative sample. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 161 (2016) 323-330

On the broader subject of LGBT equality (including health) in the European Union context, please refer to this publication: List of actions by the Commission to advance LGBT equality, ≠EU4LGBT, Justice and Consumers.