Cigarette smoking is associated with frequent substance use and poor behavioral and physical health in gender and sexual minority populations, according to a new study.
Researchers examined tobacco use by sexual minority men and transgender women to better understand the relationships between smoking, substance use, and mental, psychosocial, and general health.
For the study in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine, researchers surveyed 665 racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse sexual minority men and transgender women, 70% of whom reported smoking cigarettes.
The researchers found that smoking was associated with participants’ race/ethnicity, marijuana and alcohol use, and mental health. Current smokers were more likely to be white and reported more days of marijuana use in the past month. The study also shows that current smoking was associated with more severe anxiety symptoms and more frequent alcohol use.
“Evidence also tells us that smoking is associated with worse mental health and increased substance use, but we don’t know how these conditions are related to each other, exacerbating and mutually reinforcing their effects,” says senior author Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health.
LGBTQ+ people are more likely to smoke than their cisgender and heterosexual peers to cope with an anti-LGBTQ+ society, inadequate health care access, and decades of targeted tobacco marketing.
Those social stressors drive the health disparities they face, which a lack of LGBTQ-affirming health care providers makes worse, research shows.
“Our findings underscore the importance of holistic approaches to tobacco treatment that account for psychosocial drivers of substance use and that address the complex relationships between mental health and use of substances like alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana,” says first author Caleb LoSchiavo, a doctoral student at the Rutgers School of Public Health.
The researchers recommend further research examining the social determinants of disparities in substance use among marginalized populations and how interpersonal and systemic stressors contribute to poorer physical and mental health for minority populations.
Source: Rutgers University