Jessica Fish
October 14, 2019

New research by University of Maryland School of Public Health Assistant Professor Jessica N. Fish is the first to explore disparities in high-intensity binge drinking by people of different sexual orientations. The research, published in LGBT Health, found that sexual minority women were two to three times more likely than sexual majority women to engage in high-intensity binge drinking, and sexual minority men were equally as likely or less likely than sexual majority men to engage in high-intensity binge drinking.

The study used data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions to document sexual orientation-related disparities in high-intensity binge drinking among adults. Previous studies have measured binge drinking at four to five drinks per day, but Fish was able to utilize higher-level cutoffs—up to 12-15 drinks per day—to examine high-intensity binge drinking. 

“These findings should alert public health practitioners to the importance of assessing different degrees of risk that have been previously obscured by the standard binge drinking threshold,” Fish said in the study. 

Although the reasons for the disparities are unknown, the study cites peer-reviewed articles that suggest stress and victimization can contribute to poor physical and mental health in sexual minority populations. Fish says future studies should identify the mechanisms that drive these differences in high-intensity binge drinking.

Fish is in the Department of Family Science and is a core research scientist with the UMD Prevention Research Center, which was recently funded by the CDC to address LGBTQ mental health disparities.  Her research focuses on the factors that shape the health of sexual minorities. She aims to inform policies, programs and prevention strategies to promote life-long health in sexual minorities. 

Read the full study here.

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Jessica Fish