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Curtin University
Collaboration for Evidence, Research and Impact in Public Health

The Health and Well Being of Lesbian and Bisexual Women in Western Australia (2006)


Chief Investigator


  • Dr Graham Brown (WACHPR, Curtin University)
  • Associate Professor Alexandra McManus (Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, Curtin University)
  • Professor Peter Howat (WACHPR and Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer Control, Curtin University)

Associate Investigator

  • Dr Gareth Merriman 

Collaborating Partners

  • Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer Control (CBRCC), Curtin University
  • Cancer Council
  • Heart Foundation
  • Freedom Centre
  • Family Planning Western Australia (FPWA)
  • Gay and Lesbian Community Services (GLCS)
  • Pride W.A.
  • Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Retirement Association (GRAI)
  • Women Out West (WOW)
  • Same-Sex Domestic Abuse Group (SSDAG)


  • Healthway WA (Health Promotion Foundation of Western Australia) ($19,800)

Project Aims

  • To identify health behaviour related to: tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use; mental health; physical activity; nutrition; sexual health; and cancer screening amongst lesbian and bisexual women in Western Australia;
  • To identify ways in which current health promotion initiatives can more effectively reach lesbian and bisexual women, including behavioural sub-groups within this population group; and
  • To identify opportunities for new health promotion interventions that are specific to the health needs of lesbian and bisexual women.


Currently published literature regarding the health and well-being of lesbian and bisexual does not include Western Australian women. Further, the vast majority of research has been health issue focused only and has not included important social and community engagement questions that would assist current and future health promotion interventions to effectively target lesbian and bisexual women.

This study sought to elicit how Western Australian lesbian and bisexual women engage with community, social networks, and health promotion information, as well as general sexual health information. The research team was a collaboration of community agencies and research centres working in lesbian and bisexual women’s health and mainstream health promotion. The study was conducted in parallel with the bi-annual Perth Gay Community Periodic Study (2006). Conducting the two studies in parallel allows for significant cost savings in regard to equipment, training of recruitment staff, and coordination of the study.

Project Overview

The focus of this formative study is to provide valuable information on how and where to reorient current services and the establishment of new initiatives by mainstream (such as Cancer Council, Heart Foundation, Family Planning WA) and lesbian and gay community organisations (such as Freedom Centre, Gay and Lesbian Community Services) to more effectively target this group.
This study is a quantitative survey of 1000 lesbian and bisexual women (aged 16 years and over) in Western Australia. The questionnaire is a short, self-administered instrument. Questions focus on: tobacco, alcohol and other drug use; mental health indicators; physical activity; cancer and sexual health screening; sexual relationships, identities and practices; aspects of social attachment to general and gay and lesbian community; and a range of demographic items, including age, postcode, education, occupation and ethnicity.

Recruitment was conducted through face-to-face recruitment at identified venues and events during Lesbian and Gay Pride month. Survey recruitment was also through referral to an online questionnaire via a range of formal and informal networks and email snowball strategies

Key Outcomes

A full copy of the final report and outcomes from this research is available here.

In summary, 917 women participated in the 2006 study. Findings from this study as reported by Hyde et al. 2007 include:

  • 52.9% of participants felt either very or mostly connected to the broader community
  • 31.8% felt very or mostly connected to the gay community
  • 25.2% of respondents were biological mothers
  • 15.7% planned to have children in the next two years
  • 52.6% of respondents reported eating fast food once or twice per week, compared to 27.5% of women in the general population
  • 21.8% of participants were obese compared to 17.6% of women in the general population
  • 28.1% of respondents were smokers
  • 30.5% of women respondents exceeded national alcohol guidelines on a weekly basis
  • 41.5% of respondents had never been tested for a Sexually Transmissible Infection (STI), and 26.2% had been tested more than two years ago.
  • 60.3% of respondents used the label lesbian to describe themselves
  • 67.9% of respondents had felt sexually attracted to men on at least one occasion, and 14.7% reported sex with a male partner in the previous six months.

Associated Projects


  • Hyde, Z., Comfort, J., Brown, G., McManus, A. & Howat, P. (2007) The Health and well-being of Lesbian and Bisexual Women in Western Australia. Western Australian Centre for Health Promotion Research, Curtin University, Perth.
  • Hyde, Z., Comfort, J., Brown, G., McManus, A. & Howat, P. (2009) Alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use amongst same-sex attracted women: results from the Western Australian Lesbian and Bisexual Women's Health and Well-Being Survey. BMC Public Health, 9,317.

Conference Presentations


  • May 4 - Presentation at AHPA national conference, Adelaide.
  • May 28 - Go West seminar, Curtin University, Perth.
  • May 30 - Presentation at AHPA state professional development seminar highlights from the national conference, Perth.
  • June 6 - Presentation to the WA Sexual Health Quarterly Forum conducted by the Department of Health, Perth attendance 40 plus 3 teleconference regional sites, Perth.
  • June 10 - The Invisible Population, lesbian community health forum, Curtin University, Perth.
  • June 14 - Health in Difference conference, Brisbane.
  • October 23 - Curtin Ally Pride breakfast, Curtin University, Perth.
  • October 24 - GRAI Pride forum at UWA, Perth.
  • November 2 - PHA WA conference, Fremantle.