Trends in Alcohol Use Behaviors by Sexual Identity and Behavior Among High School Students, 2007–2017

Gregory Phillips*, Blair Turner, Dylan Felt, Ying Han, Rachel Marro, Lauren B. Beach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Purpose: Certain groups, particularly sexual minority youth, demonstrate notable disparities in alcohol use risk. Assessing trends in alcohol use behaviors by sexual orientation over time is therefore important to the epidemiologic study of adolescent health equity. Methods: We analyzed age at first drink, lifetime drinking behavior, current drinking, and binge drinking in a large, national sample of high school youth across six time points, beginning in 2007 and biennially through 2017. We assessed trends by sex, sexual identity, and sexual behavior, controlling for race/ethnicity and age. Results: Our results demonstrated that, although overall alcohol use is decreasing among youth, disparities between heterosexual and sexual minority youth remain significant. The largest decreases were seen in current alcohol use among lesbian youth, which fell from a prevalence of 56.1% in 2007 to 38.9% in 2017, and among bisexual females (64.3% in 2007 to 41.1% in 2017). Despite this, alcohol use behaviors were still elevated among lesbian and bisexual female youth compared with heterosexual sex-matched counterparts. Heterosexual-identified male students saw significant decreases in alcohol use, whereas most alcohol use behaviors among sexual minority males decreased but not to a statistically significant degree, with the exception of binge drinking among those who identified as gay (2007: 36.0% to 2017: 12.6%) and bisexual (2007: 24.7% to 2017: 11.6%). Results by sexual behavior are presented within. Conclusions: Sexual minority youth continued to demonstrate markedly high prevalence of alcohol use behaviors compared with heterosexual peers across all time points. Downward trends in alcohol use may thus mask serious population health risks if not adequately explored. Research and health promotion efforts must consider sexual minority orientation to avoid incomplete or inaccurate representation of findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)760-768
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Alcohol
  • LGBT
  • Sexual minority
  • YRBS
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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