With the House of Representatives set to commence debate on marriage equality, The Australia Institute and the National LGBTI Health Alliance have released preliminary* results of an a major survey into the stress impacts associated with the Australian marriage equality debate during the lead up to the postal survey results announcement.
More than 9,500 LGBTIQ people and their allies (friends, family etc.) participated in the self-selecting survey which investigated stress as a result of exposure to negative messages about LGBTIQ people and same-sex marriage and how people responded to this.
Deputy Director at The Australia Institute, Ebony Bennett said. “A sixty-two, thirty-eight result is an overwhelmingly positive result politically, but this debate has taken a real toll on the LGBTIQ+ community and we hope this study captures those experiences in a meaningful way”.
- Most respondents said that they experienced negative messages about LGBTIQ+ people or same sex marriage at least daily, especially from online and television media.
- LGBTIQ+ respondents said experiences of verbal and physical assaults in the 3 months following the announcement of the postal vote more than doubled, compared to the 6 months prior to the announcement.
- LGBTIQ+ respondents experiencing depression, anxiety and stress increased by more than a third after the announcement of the vote, compared to the 6 months before the announcement.
- More than 90% of LGBTIQ+ people said that debate would have a negative impact on them to some degree
- Almost 80% of LGBTIQ+ people and almost 60% allies said that they found the marriage equality debate considerably or extremely stressful.
- Almost 70% of LGBTIQ+ people said they ‘avoided being with people in general’ at least some of the time as a method of coping
- Evidence of resilience and positive coping strategies were evident for example 80% of respondents participated to some degree in LGBTIQ+ affirmative activities such as attending marches, raising awareness or displaying yes or rainbow images
“The response has been incredible and goes to show just how much people needed an opportunity to express how this time has affected them,” Lead researcher, Dr Saan Ecker said.
“A disturbing initial finding is experiences of verbal and physical assaults more than doubled in the 3 months after the announcement of the postal vote compared to the 6 months before.
“There was also an increase in reported experiences of depression, anxiety and stress after the announcement of the vote.
“It will take time to fully analyse this data, in particular long-form responses, however initial results show that the debate was a highly stressful event for many LGBTIQ+ people and their allies,” Dr Ecker said.
The research will build on international studies which have shown significant impact of these kinds of debates on the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ people.
“The public debate over the equality of our bodies, relationships and feelings has been exhausting and frequently painful. These aspects of who we are should never have been the subject of public discussion, rather they should be celebrated in everyday life,” Rebecca Reynolds, Executive Director of the National LGBTI Health Alliance said.
“We are honoured that the community was willing to share their experiences with us through this study and will be working hard to provide an accurate account of the stress impacts of this time through quantitative and qualitative results as soon as practical,” said Ebony Bennett.
“While conservatives in parliament attempt to enshrine further discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people by amending the legislation, this survey shows the real human impact of the marriage equality debate as well as the resilience of a community that has faced discrimination for decades,” Ms Bennett said.
*Due to the unprecedented response to the survey, full analysis of the data is expected to take many months and the final results may vary slightly.