A new study by the University of Melbourne,Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre and Monash University is looking at the correlation between excessive drinking, recreational drug use and depression among lesbian women 18 years and over.
Associate Professor Ruth McNair, part of the research team,told news.com.au that women of all ages who identify within this group are two to three times more likely to experience depression and anxiety.
Long term relationships, motherhood, good support networks and a positive coming out experience are all factors that prevent depression and alcohol and drug abuse later in life for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women.
"We know that that the on average most the gap between realising your sexuality and coming out to friends and family is between five and seven years. How members of this community are treated by their families during this time has a big impact on their wellbeing through life," Dr McNair said.
She described this period as a high risk time. If not properly managed and supported, it is common for high incidences of alcohol consumption and mental health issues to start at this point.
"This is a very vulnerable time and can create huge problems, with many in this community feeling lost as a result of their treatment."
Lesbian women who have had children were also found to be less susceptible to depression. Associate Professor McNeil said earlier research has found the experience of pregnancy and birth helped build women's resilience and ultimately had a positive impact on how they dealt with depression symptoms when and if they arose.
Women over 50 years are of particular interest to the research group as they were part of a generation of lesbian women in Australia who predominately would not have kids.
They are also seeking women within this community who have had an overall positive experience for insight into the way they cope with stigma.