AUT doctoral student Katie Palmer is working on her thesis on these issues at their School of Health Practice. She reports that recent Australian health data about young lesbians and alcohol use has reported binge and risky drinking levels at two to three times that for straight women. In New Zealand, Health Behaviours Study survey data (Massey University, 2007) reports that younger lesbians and gay men alike reported higher levels of alcohol abuse, smoking and illicit drug use, particularly higher levels of illicit drug use amongst younger lesbians. 'Youth07' data identifies higher levels of depression and self-harm, reported physical assault and verbal abuse, bullying, victimisation, social isolation, workplace discrimination and obstacles to career mobility as central concerns.
Palmer also identifies obstacles to young lesbian healthcare access. These include financial cost, past negative healthcare experiences, disclosure concerns, lesbian invisibility in cervical cancer and safe sex promotion. Depression, quality of life, internalised homophobia, ageing, alcohol abuse, weight management, partner abuse, antismoking issues, cancer, youth and social support are balanced against resilience and strong community affiliation. Closeting, exclusion, marginalisation and workplace heterosexism are important background concerns.
Younger lesbians have grown up in arguably changed social environments which aren't universally negative. There is a lack of age specific cohort longitudinal data about young lesbian health, however. Palmer argues that health, youth and lesbian identity have complex patterns of interaction, affecting their healthcare uptake as well as health and risk perceptions. Her research is ongoing and she can be contacted at:
For more complete information, see: Katie Palmer, "Young lesbian health and wellbeing in New Zealand" Womens Health Updata: 15.2 (May 2011): 1-2: