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Associations of Psychological Distress and Alcohol Use Patterns Among Older Adults of Sexual Minority Status and Heterosexual Peers.

BACKGROUND: There is limited research investigating sexual-orientation-related differences in older adults and their relationship with alcohol use.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine if sexual minority status moderates the relationship between psychological distress and alcohol drinking patterns.

METHODS: This study was a secondary analysis of data from the 2017-2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Health outcomes among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) older adults (N = 462) aged 50 years or older were compared with heterosexual (N = 16,856) peers using univariate analyses and logistic regressions. Interaction terms evaluated the influence of sexual orientation on psychological distress and alcohol consumption.

RESULTS: Sexual orientation was a predictor of alcohol use in the past year, past month, and at any time (p < .001) but was not a predictor of alcohol dependence or misuse, binge drinking, or heavy drinking. Heterosexual older adults were less likely to consume alcohol than those who identified as LGB. Respondents not reporting psychological distress were less likely to engage in problematic drinking. However, there was no evidence that sexual minority status moderates the relationship between psychological distress and alcohol use.

CONCLUSION: Limited evidence supports higher rates of alcohol use and alcohol-related problems among sexual minority persons than heterosexuals. Prediction models for alcohol use were not improved by using sexual orientation and psychological distress as interaction terms. Future research should examine the underlying causes of impaired health in the older LGB population. Those findings should be used to research methods of preventing and minimizing alcohol misuse.

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