06/06/2012 01:09 pm ET Updated Aug 06, 2012

Sexuality Fluidity And Alcohol Misuse: Research Finds Correlation

A recent study conducted by the University of Missouri found that college students who struggled to define their sexuality tended to abuse alcohol more heavily and experience more negative consequences than those students who could strictly define their sexual orientation.

The study was conducted over four years and followed 2,000 students of various sexual groups, such as exclusively heterosexual, exclusively homosexual, mostly homosexual, bisexual and mostly heterosexual. The students reported on the frequency of their alcohol consumption, it's consequences and their motives to drink.

Amelia Talley, MU assistant professor of psychological sciences in the College of Arts and Science, said in a release that students who are in a sexual minority group -- such as mostly homosexual, bisexual, and mostly heterosexual -- may feel unfairly branded by those in exclusively heterosexual or homosexual groups, often resulting in higher levels of anxiety or depression.

"Exclusively homosexual and heterosexual persons drank at roughly the same rate and reported drinking to enhance enjoyment of social situations," Talley said. "The other sexual minority groups tended to report more alcohol misuse. This suggests that it may be the stressful process of developing one's sexual identity that contributes to problematic drinking, just as people in any difficult situation in life may turn to alcohol to alleviate stress."

The research further substantiated a claim that women possess a more fluid sense of sexuality.

"....[Women] were able to admit a certain degree of attraction to the same gender without defining themselves as completely homosexual," Talley said. "Women may be more open to admitting to same-sex attractions 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."

The data also showed that men experienced greater anxiety over their inability to neatly define their sexual orientation. Talley speculated that this may be linked to the prevalence of masculine gender norms in society, and said she hopes the study could help young people who turn to alcohol by providing relevant information and a support network.