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Vulnerability of the LGBTQ+ community to alcohol use and harms

Drinkaware, an independent non-profit that explores alcohol use dangers and ways to limit them, recently published its findings on alcohol misuse trends in LGBTQ+ communities. This charity compared the drinking patterns of cis-heterosexual and LGBTQ+ respondents in the UK following reports claiming that gender and sexual minorities (GSM) are more vulnerable to risky alcohol use and associated harms.

 Prominent Drinkaware findings

The Drinkaware survey highlighted some noticeable social motivators behind alcohol misuse in the LGBTQ+ community. These factors may be partly responsible for spikes in the World Health Organisation’s Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and its abbreviated AUDIT-Consumption (AUDIT-C) alcohol misuse screening instruments.

The study found that increased levels of depression and anxiety cause risky alcohol use habits in LGBTQ+ individuals. Some GSM members also drink to either fit in or cope with social demands in their environments.

Although the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption in GSM individuals and groups align with the trends of their cis-heterosexual counterparts, members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to binge drink. The NHS labels binge drinking – drinking large amounts of alcohol during one occasion – as harmful because it increases the likelihood of:

  • Fatal or injury-causing accidents.
  • Poor judgement.
  • Committing or becoming a victim of a crime.
  • Self-harm and suicide.

GSM individuals and groups are twice as likely to seek help for alcohol misuse problems than cis-heterosexual people. However, statistics indicate that they would rather use an app or other digital means to get help than consult a healthcare practitioner or counsellor in person. Individuals reported that they experience negativity when reaching out for healthcare interventions and tend to avoid getting help for fear of discrimination.

Drinkaware also examined alcohol misuse patterns among LGBTQ+ people with disabilities, those who are part of ethnic minorities, and those living in impoverished conditions. Again, these people displayed a higher propensity for binge drinking than cis-heterosexual individuals in the same circumstances.

Regarding intra-group GSM comparisons, the data shows that individuals identifying as transgender or non-binary drink less than LGBTQ+ adults identifying as cisgender. Employers can use workplace alcohol testing programmes to identify individuals who may need help.

How workplace alcohol testing programmes help GSM individuals

A workplace is a neutral platform consisting of various individuals from all sexual orientations and social conditions. It is an environment where employers can drive more than just company goals and bottom lines – they can use the workplace as a basis to address some of the social issues that their employees struggle with.

In the UK, employers can lawfully implement alcohol and drug testing programmes to improve employee wellbeing and occupational safety. Such a programme can be used to reach out to LGBTQ+ employees battling with alcohol misuse issues.

Drug and alcohol testing specialist Matrix Diagnostics offers objective guidance throughout the implementation of workplace programmes to align these with the latest relevant guidelines. Backed by expert training and support, this scheme helps identify GSM individuals who need help and establishes a basis to facilitate the correct interventions and referrals in a non-discriminatory way.

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