Critical Data From World's Longest-Running Survey On LGBTQ Women's Health Released

Major findings from Australia’s longest-running regular survey into the health and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) women and non-binary people have been released by ACON, NSW’s leading LGBTI health organisation.

The Sydney Women and Sexual Health Survey (SWASH) is a comprehensive biennial snapshot on the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ women covering issues ranging from sexual and gender identity, sexual health, mental health, violence, tobacco and drug use, alcohol consumption, cancer screening behaviours and more. A collaborative project between ACON and the University of Sydney, SWASH is the world’s longest-running regular survey on LGBTQ women’s health. 

Almost 1300 participants were involved in the 2018 SWASH survey, with an age range of 16 to 94. Key findings included:

  • 41 per cent reported high or very high psychological distress (62 per cent of 16-24 year olds);
  • 31 per cent said they had felt life was not worth living in the past 12 months, 14 per cent had self-harmed;
  • 55 per cent of respondents of screening age were overdue for a mammogram;
  • 21 per cent had never had a Pap smear, and a further 12 per cent had their last Pap smear more than three years ago;
  • 37 per cent of respondents had never had an STI test, despite the vast majority being sexually active.

In 2018, SWASH also undertook its first ever regional analysis, collecting data from LGBTQ women and non-binary people in the Northern Rivers and Mid North Coast regions of NSW. Results from that survey are presented in a separate report.

ACON Acting CEO Karen Price said the insights into LGBTQ women’s health provided by SWASH is a primary means by which organisations such as ACON can structure and inform its response to segments of LGBTQ communities that are often found out of the reach of mainstream messaging.

“We are very proud of the programs and services we are delivering to meet the health needs of LGBTQ people such as our recently launched breast cancer awareness initiative Our United Front, our cervical screening campaign The Inner Circle and our ongoing peer-led sexual health service, Check OUT Clinic,” Price said.

“These ACON programs and services have all been informed by data collected by previous SWASH studies, along with other aspects of ACON’s work on behalf of, and with LGBTQ women.”

Speaking to the importance of SWASH, lead researcher Dr Julie Mooney-Somers of the University of Sydney, said the survey provides valuable information that is often under-researched and data that is often not captured.

“Australian epidemiological data on a range of health issues experienced by LGBTQ women and non-binary people remains inconsistent and the inclusion of properly worded sexuality and gender indicators in large epidemiological surveys remains patchy,” Dr Mooney-Somers said.

“SWASH provides unparalleled insights into the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ women in NSW and such important community-driven research has only been possible through successful partnerships between researchers, community organisations and of course, participants. Without community support, SWASH would not be the world’s longest running survey of LGBTQ women and non-binary people’s health.”


View a video on the release of the SWASH Report 2018 here

Read the SWASH Report 2018 here

Read the SWASH Northern Rivers/Mid North Coast Report 2018 here



For more information please contact: David Alexander, ACON Media and Communications

E: [email protected]   T: (02) 9206 2044   M: 0428 477 042

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