Perth: Lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to use drugs and binge drink than the general population, a new survey has revealed.
The WA Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health survey, conducted by the university’s WA Centre for Health Promotion Research, found this group’s use of legal and illegal drugs was higher than the general community and they were reluctant to get pap smears.
Jude Comfort, from WACHPR, said some of the key findings could surprise or alarm the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community.
“The findings all help in building a picture of the community and provide direction to work with this community to improve their health,” WA today quoted her as saying.
The survey found 27 percent of respondents had never had a pap smear and a further 8 percent had last one more than three years ago.
“This is an important screening tool for cervical cancer. The numbers suggest a poor understanding that lesbians need pap smears,” Comfort said.
According to the survey, lesbian and bisexual women use legal and illegal drugs at higher rates than the general community.
A third of respondents reported smoking tobacco, which included 43 percent of 16 to 24 year olds. Nationally, 15 percent of Australians smoke.
“Smoking rates that are twice the national average are a huge concern especially as tobacco smoking is the single most preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia,” Comfort said.
She said alcohol was the other drug widely used.
The research found that while lesbian people were just as likely to drink as the wider population, levels of risky drinking were higher.
Almost half of the respondents indicated they drank more than the National Health Medical Research Council guidelines recommended to reduce the lifetime risk of alcohol related disease or injury.
Nearly one third drank at levels considered risky on a single drinking occasion, also known as “binge drinking.”
“In the six months prior to the survey nearly half of the women had used an illicit drug – 36 per cent had used cannabis, 18 per cent ecstasy and 16 per cent speed. Again these figures are higher than the broader community,” Comfort said.
The survey also showed 35 percent of women reported they had experienced some kind of anti-LGBTI behaviour in the preceding year and more than 20 percent had experienced domestic violence with a female partner.
Almost 900 women were surveyed as part of the research with the average age of respondents being 26.