The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recently awarded continued funding to CHHS Associate Dean of Research Professor Laurie Drabble and Alcohol Research Group Scientist Karen Trocki to further their research on health disparities among sexual minority women, focusing on hazardous drinking patterns and illicit drug use. The project extends their research based on the National Alcohol Survey, one of the first U.S. population-based studies to include sexual identity measures. Ultimately, findings from the research will help inform health services research and efforts to advance health equity.
In addition to testing innovative methods for sampling rare populations, Laurie, Karen, and colleagues are examining individual, community and societal factors that may contribute, either positively or negatively, to substance use outcomes. Not only are they examining individual level factors that may influence health disparities (e.g., social support and psychological distress), the research team is also exploring how health outcomes are influenced by structural stigma, such as policies that allow for discrimination in employment, health care, or public accommodations based on sexual identity.
Most recently, the research team published an innovative study in a prestigious journal that examined similarities and differences yielded by probability and non-probability samples in estimating of risk for substance use and mental health outcomes among sexual minority women compared to heterosexual women. Although continued inclusion of sexual minorities in population-based studies is critical, there is still a pressing need for research using non-probability strategies that reach sufficient numbers of diverse respondents to examine sexual-minority-specific resiliency and risk factors and to explore differences in risk between sub-groups. The study, which generally found similar risks among sexual minority women compared to heterosexual women regardless of sampling strategy, helps affirm the utility of research using non-probability samples and lays the groundwork for additional methodological research on sexual minority health and well-being.
“We are very confident in our research,” says Laurie. “In the current political environment, there is a pressing need to understand how health is impacted by policies that protect against, or allow, discrimination based on sexual or gender identity.”