Community support leads to decrease in substance abuse of LGBTQ youth  


Community support decreases the possibility of substance abuse by LGBTQ adolescents, a study by a University of Connecticut researcher found. 

“The study of 2,678 sexual minority adolescents, ‘Associations Between Community-Level LGBTQ-Supportive Factors and Substance Use Among Sexual Minority Adolescents,’ was published in the journal LGBT Health,” a UConn news advisory said.  

Ryan J. Watson, the lead researcher in the study, is an assistant professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at UConn, and also served as the principal investigator for the 2018 LGBTQ National Teen Study, which collaborated with the Human Rights Campaign that examined the lives of LGBTQ teenagers, the news advisory said.  

“A lot of public discourse includes a narrative that ‘it gets better’ or it is getting better for LGBTQ young people, but our previous studies have not shown this,” Watson said of why he chose to become involved with this study. “Some previous published papers by my team show that alcohol disparities are now growing for some LGBTQ groups, such as bisexual girls. So, a lot of research now focuses on how to close these disparities, thus making better lives and experiences for LGBTQ youth.”  

Watson explained that a novel method was used to conduct this study, utilizing representative data from surveys distributed to youth in schools throughout British Columbia, Canada. They combined this data with data their own team found about the areas where these surveyed youth lived, and how supportive the surrounding communities were toward LGBTQ people.  

“In this project we used questions that asked about how often youth used illegal drugs, alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes. We also asked them about their sexual orientation, how long they had lived in Canada, their age and other demographic variables,” Watson said. “In the new data we collected, we assessed whether communities had pride parades, including organizations that were supportive of LGBTQ people … and many more attributes of communities.”  

Watson said he was surprised to find how effective supportive communities were in lowering substance abuse in LGBTQ youth.  

“Most of us believe the communities we live in are important, but this study showed that our communities do play a huge role in the health and well-being of LGBTQ young people,” Watson said.   

Watson said he believes these findings can be replicated in New England, as well as within the UConn community.  

“The UConn community can continue to be as supportive as possible to LGBTQ communities,” Watson said. “The Rainbow Center has a Safe Zone training, as many individuals as possible can utilize this to know how to be most supportive of marginalized populations. Our data show even a sticker on the door of a faculty members’ office can make LGBTQ people feel safe. In fact, even straight people feel safer in these environments, showed some of our recent projects.”  

Thumbnail photo courtesy of @ETRorg on Twitter.

Amanda Kilyk is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached at

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