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Alcohol and drug use among sexual minority college students and their heterosexual counterparts: the effects of experiencing and witnessing incivility and hostility on campus

Authors Woodford MR, Krentzman AR, Gattis MN

Published Date March 2012 Volume 2012:3(1) Pages 11—23


Received 22 September 2011, Accepted 28 December 2011, Published 20 March 2012

Michael R Woodford1, Amy R Krentzman2, Maurice N Gattis3
1School of Social Work, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA; 2Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA; 3School of Social Work, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA

Purpose: Research suggests that discrimination contributes to increased substance use among sexual minorities. Subtle discrimination and witnessing mistreatment, however, have received little attention. Using minority stress theory as a conceptual framework the authors examined the intersection of sexual orientation, experiencing and witnessing incivility and hostility, and students' alcohol and drug use. The authors hypothesized that experiencing/witnessing incivility/hostility would mediate the relationship between sexual minority status and drinking and drug use, as well as problematic use of these substances.
Methods: Data were taken from a campus climate survey (n = 2497; age mean [M] = 23.19 years; 61% female; 17% sexual minorities). Controlling for demographics, logistic regressions depicted specifications for each path of the mediation analysis and bootstrapping was used to assess the significance of each sexual minority-mistreatment-drinking/drug use path.
Results: Experiencing incivility mediated the relationship between sexual minority status and problematic drinking. Sexual minority college students were more likely to personally experience incivility (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.87; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.51–2.33), which was associated with greater odds of problematic drinking (AOR = 1.64; 95% CI = 1.35–2.00). The mediation path was significant at P < 0.001. Further, witnessing hostility mediated the relationship between sexual minority status and problematic drinking. Sexual minority college students were more likely to witness hostility (AOR = 1.87, 95% CI = 1.48–2.36), which was associated with greater odds of problematic drinking (AOR = 1.53; 95% CI = 1.24–1.90). The mediation path was significant at P < 0.01.
Conclusion: The results provide further evidence for minority stress theory and suggest that clinical alcohol use interventions with sexual minorities need to assess personal incivilities and witnessing interpersonal mistreatment, especially hostility. Campus climate interventions that address subtle discrimination as well as harassment and violence may help reduce problematic drinking.

Keywords: sexual orientation, discrimination, minority stress, campus climate, drinking, substance use

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