Religiosity as a protective factor for hazardous drinking and drug use among sexual minority and heterosexual women: Findings from the National Alcohol Survey.Drug Alcohol Depend. 2016 Apr 01; 161:127-34.DA
Despite research documenting disparities in risk for alcohol-related problems among sexual minority women, few studies explore potential protective factors within this population. This study examines how religiosity may function as a protective or risk factor for alcohol-problems or other substance use among sexual minorities compared to heterosexuals.
Data from 11,169 women who responded to sexual identity and sexual behavior questions from three population-based National Alcohol Survey waves (2000, 2005, 2010) were utilized for analyses of religiosity in relation to lifetime drinking, past year hazardous drinking, and past year drug use.
Religiosity was significantly greater among exclusively heterosexual women compared to all sexual minority groups (lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual women who report same sex partners). Lesbians reported the lowest rates of affiliation with religions/denominations discouraging alcohol use. Past year hazardous drinking and use of any illicit drugs were significantly lower among exclusively heterosexual women compared to all sexual minority groups. High religiosity was associated with lifetime alcohol abstention and was found to be protective against hazardous drinking and drug use among both sexual minority and heterosexual women. Reporting religious norms unfavorable to drinking was protective against hazardous drinking among exclusively heterosexual women but not sexual minority women.
Findings reveal the importance of considering sexual minority status in evaluation of religion or spirituality as protective among women. Future studies should explore religiosity in the context of other individual and environmental factors, such as positive identity development and community-level acceptance, which may be salient to resiliency among sexual minorities.