A lack of systematic, nuanced research on the health and wellbeing of Australian lesbian, bisexual and queer (LBQ) women has been a significant barrier to understanding, recognising and addressing their health needs. At worst, LBQ women’s health needs have been largely ignored. At best, they have been considered to be synonymous with general women’s health. While sex between women is considered relatively low risk to health, a range of social, psychological and economic factors mean that this minority group has poorer health outcomes than their heterosexual peers. Stigma, family and community rejection and discrimination can impact on health and wellbeing, the delivery of health services, and women’s access to services.
The SWASH survey is a comprehensive survey of important health issues relevant to LBQ and other non-heterosexual identifying women engaged with Sydney’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities. The survey covers sexual health and wellbeing, violence, mental health, tobacco use, illicit drug use, alcohol consumption, and cancer screening behaviours. SWASH has run every two years since 1996, and since 2009 has been run by researchers at the University of Sydney in collaboration with ACON.
The survey is regularly revised to reflect the needs of LGBTQ communities and knowledge deficits identified through research literature. Where possible, questions are sourced from established national surveys such as the Australian Health Survey (AHS), National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS), Australian Study of Health and Relationships (ASHR), and Australian Longitudinal Survey of Women’s Health (ALSWH).
SWASH provides a much needed local evidence base to inform best practice in healthcare and prevention for chronic diseases, mental health and wellbeing, sexual and reproductive health and ageing. Full background on the SWASH project and the results from the 2018 survey can be found in the main SWASH report.
For the 2018 iteration of SWASH, we undertook sustained community engagement in the Northern Rivers and Mid North Coast region of NSW to generate sufficient numbers for a regional analysis. The SWASH NR-MNC report presents results based on surveys where participants who resided in this region.