Young adults who are uncertain of their sexual orientation are more prone to abuse alcohol than those whose sexuality fits more firmly into a particular mold.

This according to University of Missouri-Columbia researchers. The findings highlight the importance of support programs for sexual minorities.

Long term study of over 2,000 students

The study followed over 2,000 students over four years, and administered surveys in the fall and spring of each year to assess sexual self-identification and behavior.

The students were assigned to one of five groups: exclusively heterosexual or homosexual, mostly heterosexual or homosexual, and bisexual. The surveys also measured alcohol use among participants.

The students who identified as bisexual or whose orientation fluctuated over the four years were more likely to drink heavily and experience negative consequences, like bingeing and suffering withdrawal symptoms.

They also reported reasons for drinking like relieving anxiety or coping with stress. In contrast, exclusively heterosexual or exclusively homosexual respondents were more likely to drink for enjoyment and drank at a steadier rate.

In general, women were more fluid in the identification of their sexuality. The researchers suggest that the objectification of women as sex objects by society may make it easier for them to admit attraction to other women without identifying as exclusively homosexual.

Men, on the other hand, tended toward the extremes, possibly because men are less likely to think of "mostly straight" as a viable option.