Behavioral Health, Mental Health, Substance Abuse
Approaches to using national and state data to understand how sexual orientation and access to healthcare affects substance abuse in adult women
(School of Public Health (UMD) Behavioral and Community Health Doctoral Student)
Over four million women in the United States are classified as non-heterosexual, with sexual orientations such as lesbian, bisexual, and queer. Existing research indicates that non-heterosexual women face significant burdens to accessing healthcare. Compared to heterosexual women, non-heterosexual women are more likely to be poor, uninsured, and unstably housed or homeless, creating many cost-related hurdles to care. Non-heterosexual women also have poorer health outcomes than their counterparts, including drastically high rates of alcohol, illicit drug, and tobacco use. This research seeks to utilize a unique two-pronged approach to analyze the effect of sexual orientation and access to healthcare on substance abuse outcomes, on both national and local scales. The 2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the first survey to have generalizable results to the national lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) community, will provide a country-wide snapshot of this relationship. NHIS women respondents were predominantly white (74.2%) and Hispanic (17.4), with a mean age of 49 years. The 2012 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), whose female respondents were also primarily white (60%) and Hispanic (22%), with a slightly higher mean age of 55 years, will then provide a more localized perspective. California is a unique state to examine because although it has consistently been at the nation’s forefront for advancing the health, social acceptance, and political standing of LGB individuals, it also has higher than national average rates of illicit drug use and alcohol abuse. Examining these variables on both national and state levels will provide a multidimensional picture of how these variables interact, to better understand the unique health needs of non-heterosexual women. This research will be unique by analyzing a nationally representative sample and a statewide sample of adult women, to obtain a better understanding of how sexual orientation and access to healthcare relate to substance abuse outcomes.