Substance use by Aotearoa's Sexual Minority Youth: Self-esteem and the LGBTQ+ Community
It has been established that, from young ages, sexual minority individuals experience higher rates of substance use and associated negative outcomes than their heterosexual peers. However, the results of research investigating the relationships between substance use and self-esteem, and substance use and connectedness to/participation in the LGBTQ+ community in sexual minority youth remain ambiguous in the literature. My thesis describes two studies; one investigating the relationships between self-esteem and substance use in a sample of 1950 high school students (56% female) of different sexual orientations; the other the relationships between self-esteem, substance use, and participation in and connectedness to the LGBTQ+ community in a sample of 169 sexual minority university students (71% women). The latter study is the first to investigate these relationships in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Consistent with expectations, my first study found that greater substance use was associated with lower self-esteem in both heterosexual and bisexual participants. Bisexuals reported the highest levels of substance use and lowest self-esteem, while asexual participants reported the least substance use. In my second study, participants attracted to multiple genders again reported the greatest substance use, and their greater participation in the LGBTQ+ community was associated with greater self-esteem. Those experiencing little to no sexual attraction reported the highest self-esteem, and also the lowest levels of connection to the LGBTQ+ community. I interpret these findings in relation to Self-Derogation Theory, Social Ties Theory and Minority Stress Theory. Self-esteem is indicated as an intervention target for sexual minority youth at risk of problem behaviours, and no evidence is found suggesting participation in or connection to the LGBTQ+ community to be risk factors for such behaviour.