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Professor Tonda Hughes sheds light on sexual minority women’s health

29 March 2017

Professor Tonda Hughes and Professor Fiona BrooksOn Tuesday 14 March the Faculty of Health welcomed Professor Tonda Hughes of Colombia University, New York City, to present a seminar titled ‘From Midwestern USA to OZ: Research on Sexual Minority Women’s Health’. Professor Hughes is an Honorary Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney and is internationally known for her ground breaking work focusing on lesbian health, with expertise in the area of alcohol use among sexual minority (e.g. lesbian and bisexual) women.  Professor Hughes and the Faculty of Health at UTS are currently negotiating future research collaborations.

Professor Hughes identified the three major dimensions of sexual orientation; identity, attraction and behaviour assessed in her 17-year longitudinal study, the Chicago Health and Life Experiences of Women (CHLEW) study. She highlighted that women whose sexual identity matches their sexual behaviour and attraction are at lower risk of hazardous drinking than those whose sexual identity does not match the other two dimensions of their orientation. Of particular interest were the findings from her research drawing on the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH). Interestingly, women who identify as “mainly” heterosexual differ in important ways to women who identify as exclusively heterosexual – these women were more than three times more likely to report having been in a violent relationship, and significantly higher rates of stress, anxiety and depression.

Other points of discussion were in relation to health risks among young Australian sexual minority women, and rates of pregnancy among young sexual minority women in the CHLEW study. Professor Hughes noted the alarming discrepancy between the high level of acceptance of LGBTI people and the lack of same-sex marriage equality in Australia. Future research conducted by Professor Hughes will address the correlations between relationship status, substance abuse and mental health by assessing the impact on sexual minority women’s health of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the country. Professor Hughes welcomes UTS academic staff with interests in research collaboration. To make inquiries, please contact the Faculty of Health research office: health.research.office@uts.edu.au or Professor Hughes directly: th2696@cumc.columbia.edu .


Byline: Madelyn Lines