Progressive LGBT Policies in Schools Lower Binge Drinking

Viewing alcohol ads may contribute to underage drinking.
Viewing alcohol ads may contribute to underage drinking.
Areas with more progressive policies toward lesbians and gays had fewer students engaged in binge drinking.

Binge drinking among students is lower in cities and states where a greater proportion of schools with programs that support, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth are in effect. The rate of binge drinking in such areas is less both among heterosexual and LGBT students.

Robert WS Coulter, MPH, a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, and colleagues, analyzed data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey of more than 50,000 students in eight states or cities nationwide.

Questions included how many days in the past month they had at least one alcoholic drink and how many days they had at least one drink on school property. The questionnaire also examined binge drinking by asking how many days in the past month the students had five or more drinks in a row, over a matter of hours.

School environment toward LGBT students was determined using the School Health Profile survey. Geographic areas were considered more welcoming of LGBT students if they had greater proportions of schools that have gay-straight alliances or similar student clubs and “safe spaces” for LGBT youth, and prohibit harassment based on real or perceived sexual orientation, for example.

Living in jurisdictions with more affirmative LGBT school climates was associated with significantly fewer binge drinking days for gay/lesbian and heterosexual students, compared with those living in areas with less tolerant policies, the researchers reported in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“By nurturing LGBT-affirmative school climates through inclusive policies and programming, schools may reduce certain alcohol use behaviors for gay/lesbian students, heterosexual students and students unsure of their sexual orientation,” Dr Coulter said in a statement.