A study from the University of Missouri suggests that young adults who experiment with their sexuality or identify as bi are more likely to abuse alcohol than people with a firmly defined orientation.
The study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, followed more than 2,000 college students over the course of four years. The undergrads were surveyed twice a year about their sexual self-identification and behavior, attraction and drinking habits.
The findings aren’t that shocking, but the researchers’ theory as to why bisexual students are hitting the sauce harder made us think:
“Bisexuals and students whose sexual orientation was in flux reported the heaviest drinking and most negative consequences from alcohol use, such as uncontrolled drinking and withdrawal symptoms,” said U of M professor Amelia Talley. “Those groups reported drinking to relieve anxiety and depression at higher rates than strictly heterosexual or homosexual individuals. One possible explanation is that people who aren’t either completely heterosexual or homosexual may feel stigmatized by both groups.”
That’s certainly a possibility, but we can think of several others:
* There’s still a strong cultural bias against homosexuality in America. A young man or woman realizing they’re queer may develop deep anxiety, leading them to drink heavily. They may, as is often the case, also find some solace in temporarily adopting a bisexual orientation before fully coming out.
* College kids are an insecure lot. Young women, especially, are often pressured to engage in same-sex acts or identify as bi to titillate their male partners. For these people, drinking and claiming a bi identity are both just cases of giving in to peer pressure.
* Students invested in claiming a fixed orientation—be it gay or straight—may want to downplay factors that make them look less “in control” of their lives. The bisexual students are being honest about their fluid sexuality, so maybe they’re more inclined to be honest about other things, like drinking.
And of course sexual orientation isn’t always a box you can just check off like race or gender. (We’re being sarcastic, people.) In addition to those who identified as heterosexual and homosexual, some respondents in Talley’s study claimed to be “mostly homosexual,” bisexual, and “mostly heterosexual.”
That’s some pretty gray language right there.
What do you think? Are the bi kids getting tanked because of the grief they get from their peers or for some other reason? Take a swig and sound off in the comments section.