Research consistently reports higher rates of problematic drinking among lesbian, bisexual and queer women than among heterosexual women, but relatively little research has identified underlying factors. Within this context, the aim of the present study was to qualitatively explore the sociocultural influences on alcohol consumption among lesbian, bisexual and queer women in Australia. An ethnographic study including in-depth interviews and 10 sessions of participant observation was conducted with 25 Australian lesbian, bisexual and queer women. Analysis of transcripts and fieldnotes focused on lesbian, bisexual and queer-related influences on alcohol consumption. Three lesbian, bisexual and queer-related factors were identified that influenced alcohol use: (1) coping, (2) connection and (3) intersections with lesbian, bisexual and queer identity. Most participants reported consuming alcohol to cope with discrimination or to connect with like-minded others. Alcohol use had positive influences for some women through facilitating social connection and wellbeing. Women with a high lesbian, bisexual and queer identity salience were more likely to seek lesbian, bisexual and queer community connection involving alcohol, to publicly identify as lesbian, bisexual and queer and to experience discrimination. National policies need to address underlying causes of discrimination against lesbian, bisexual and queer women. Alcohol policies and clinical interventions should acknowledge the impact of discrimination on higher alcohol consumption amongst lesbian, bisexual and queer women compared with heterosexual women, and should utilise health promotion messages regarding safe drinking that facilitate lesbian, bisexual and queer social connection.
- cultural practices
- female sexuality
- licit and illicit substance use