Digital media and informal knowledge networks among gender and sexually diverse young people in Australia and Scotland

Stream: Young people, health and drugs
Date: Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Time: 10.55 am – 12.35 pm


Socio-cultural and structural discriminations affect gender and sexually diverse young people’s health and wellbeing and they are often bypassed by traditional health education efforts. In two qualitative studies exploring their health experiences and needs, we examined where and from whom gender and sexually diverse young people sought support.

The paper draws on in-depth interviews with 40 gender and sexually diverse young people in Queensland, Australia and 20 in Scotland, UK.

Preliminary findings point to a reliance on informal knowledge networks and forms of peer learning that young people draw on to share and support each other, which range from friends and partners in their immediate social and sexual networks through to a broad range of social media platforms and contemporary (online) subcultures in which to find support and also share their own experiences. A supportive peer or more specifically friendship group is important, as is access to safe spaces for learning. These are often, but not exclusively, online and we need to be cognisant of how online and offline social networks can be very much intertwined. This does raise the question of what the implications are for young people who do not have such informal support and who are less well connected.

An approach that takes young people themselves as the starting point is needed to find solutions. Understanding and capitalising on the ways in which young people might rely on informal forms of peer learning could be the primary starting point to inform policy and practice in this area.


Lisa McDaid (Presenter), MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow
Lisa McDaid is Professor of Social Sciences and Health, currently based at the University of Glasgow. She will be moving to The University of Queensland to lead the Health Research Group at the Institute for Social Science Research in July 2019. Her research is focused on identifying, developing and implementing solutions to improve health and wellbeing, particularly among the most disadvantaged and marginalised in society. She is interested in how best to engage communities at high risk of poor health and wellbeing in health improvement research and developing new methods of co-production for intervention development.

Ruth Lewis, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow
Ruth Lewis is a Research Associate at the University of Glasgow. She is a sociologist working to improve health and wellbeing among individuals and communities. Her research examines how social relationships shape health and wellbeing, and she is particularly interested in intersections between gender, sexuality and health. Her research is influenced by feminist and interactionist theory, and tends to use qualitative methodologies.

Allyson Mutch, The University of Queensland
Allyson Mutch is a Senior Lecturer in Health Systems in the School of Public Health, University of Queensland and a Senior Fellow in the Higher Education Academy. Her research focuses on the social determinants of health and the health and wellbeing of people who are marginalised and experiencing disadvantage. She also focuses on the role of primary care and community based systems in supporting people who are experiencing disadvantage.

Lisa Fitzgerald, The University of Queensland
Dr Lisa Fitzgerald is a public health sociologist with research interests in the health and wellbeing of people experiencing marginalisation and the social determinants of (sexual) health. Lisa is the co-ordinator of anumber of courses including PUBH7620 Social Perspectives, a core course in the MPH. She is engaged in social research projects related to HIV, sexual health, young people, LGBTI health, sex work and teaching the social determinants of health as a threshold concept in public health teaching and learning.