July 16, 2014

Non-Heterosexuals More Likely To Smoke And Binge Drink, According To New CDC Poll

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

A new survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that on average – gay men, lesbians and bisexuals (LGBT) are more likely than straight people to smoke and binge drink, a major health concern for the gay community.

The survey, which found that 2.3 percent of Americans admit to not being heterosexual, indicated that gays and bisexuals are just as likely to exercise as straight people, while more likely to take HIV tests and get flu vaccines.

"The differences went both ways, and it depends on the specific indicator that you were looking at," study author Brian Ward, a health statistician for the CDC, told Reuters.

The poll result of 2.3 percent of Americans being non-heterosexual is significantly lower than the result found by other polls. Kim Painter of USA Today reports that a 2012 Gallup poll found about 3 or 4 percent of respondents were not heterosexual. The new CDC survey of nearly 35,000 Americans did have 1.1 percent saying they were “something else” other than the options given, didn’t know or didn’t respond.

In the CDC poll, 1.6 percent reported they were gay and .7 percent reported they were bisexual, with 96.6 percent saying they were straight. About double as many women as men said they were bisexual, with 0.9 percent of female respondents declaring they were interested in both sexes. Bisexual women were doubly as likely to report having substantial anxiety than any other group, with nearly 11 percent expressing they had been troubled in the past month.

David Mariner, executive director of the DC Center for the LGBT Community, told Painter he thinks the gay percentage in the new study might be low. Mariner cited how the questions were asked and the ages of respondents as possible explanations. He mentioned that in a different CDC study that centered on youth in the Washington region, over 15 percent of high school respondents called themselves gay, lesbian or bisexual. He said this is evidence that young people can be at ease with their sexuality and therefore more likely to admit to not being straight.

"I think regardless of whether the number is this number or higher, we're still talking about millions of Americans that are disproportionately affected by a lot of health indicators," Mariner told Painter.

Despite the lower results related to sexual orientation, CDC said their findings were in line with similar studies conducted on the overall health of the LGBT community.

A study presented in May of this year looked into why gay teens binge drink and found chronic stress caused by difficult social situations to be a major cause.

Presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, the study explored the relationship between binge drinking and a variety of stressful experiences, such as dealing with homophobia and gay-related victimization.

As expected, respondents indicated greater psychological distress when they experienced victimization, if they had internalized homophobia, and if they made others aware of their sexual orientation.