When most people think of drunk undergrads, they envision wasted frat bros yelling racial epithets off their Solo cup-strewn roof. But a new study that followed more than 2,000 incoming college students for four years shows that the students who misuse alcohol most frequently aren't as easily stereotyped: in fact, they're students whose sexual self-definition isn't exclusively heterosexual or homosexual.
"Bisexuals and students whose sexual orientation was in flux reported the heaviest drinking and most negative consequences from alcohol use, such as uncontrolled drinking and withdrawal symptoms," said study author Amelia Talley, MU assistant professor of psychological sciences in the College of Arts and Science. "Those groups reported drinking to relieve anxiety and depression at higher rates than strictly heterosexual or homosexual individuals."
The study also found that women more easily define themselves as sexually fluid, perhaps "because women are more likely to be objectified as sexual objects in our culture; hence, women are accustomed to assessing the attractiveness of other women in comparison to themselves." Men, on the other hand, are more likely to feel anxious about their sexual identity thanks to masculine gender norms.
Talley said one explanation for the heavy drinking rates could be that people who are unable to define themselves feel stigmatized from both heterosexual and homosexual groups, doubling the amount of pressure people typically already feel to fit in. She hopes the research will help provide more of a support network for college students who turn to alcohol because they're stressed about defining their sexuality.
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