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J LGBT Health Res. 2007;3(3):73-90.

The relationship between early drinking contexts of women "coming out" as lesbian and current alcohol use.

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School of Social Work, University of Connecticut,W. Hartford, CT 06117-2698, USA.


Several decades of research show that lesbians are at risk for hazardous drinking. Compared with heterosexual women, lesbians are less likely to abstain from drinking, less likely to decrease their alcohol consumption as they age, and more likely to report alcohol-related problems. Stress associated with lesbian identity and reliance on lesbian or gay bars for socialization and support are frequently posited--but largely untested--explanations for lesbians' heightened risk. Results from general population studies indicate that patterns of alcohol use established early in the life-course or during life transitions influence later alcohol use and alcohol-related problems. Further, heavy-drinking peers, availability of alcohol, and drinking in particular social contexts--such as at bars and parties--are believed to contribute to heavier drinking and to alcohol-related problems. To better understand lesbians' risks for hazardous drinking, we examined relationships between retrospective accounts of drinking patterns and drinking contexts in the early stages of lesbian identity development and current drinking outcomes in a large sample of adult lesbians. Findings suggest that early drinking patterns and drinking contexts influence later alcohol use and have important implications for risk reduction and prevention among lesbians.

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