Pass It On: The Postal Survey Seriously Harmed LGBTIQ Australians’ Mental Health

Learn from this.

Study confirms postal survey led to higher rates of depression and anxiety for LGBTIQ Australians.

Another study has confirmed that last year’s postal survey took an enormous toll on LGBTIQ Australians’ mental health, just as those LGBTIQ Australians repeatedly warned throughout the months of national debate on their rights.

The new research, conducted by psychologists at the University of Sydney, shows that the more LGBTIQ people were exposed to negative messages about their community during the postal survey, the more psychological distress they experienced. Levels of depression, anxiety and stress increased when LGBTIQ people were exposed to homophobic campaign messages, or media articles covering these messages.

“The findings highlight how political decision-making and legislative processes related to the rights of minority populations have the potential to negatively affect their mental health,” the study’s lead author Stefano Verrelli, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, said.

The study also highlighted a few things that helped protect LGBTIQ people from the harms of the postal survey, which included support from friends and family, and public messages of support from LGBTIQ health or advocacy organisations.

Today’s study follows another study, published in 2018, which showed that the health of LGBTIQ people declined in areas of the country with a high proportion of No voters.

These findings come too late for the postal survey, but as CEO of Equality Australia Anna Brown points out, the results of the study apply to public debates about the rights of minority groups today. “Over a year on from the plebiscite we are still seeing continued attacks on vulnerable trans and gender diverse young people,” Brown said. “We know they will face the same negative outcomes.”

“Our government must end these damaging debates premised on the idea that our equality poses a threat to religious freedom and protect our children.”

One of the saddest parts of the postal survey process was that LGBTIQ Australians weren’t really listened to where it mattered urgently. Marriage equality was passed, sure, but the LGBTIQ community’s concerns about the harms of the debate went unheard. Now, months later, we have the data that confirms what we were saying at the time. Let’s use it in future to avoid doing further harm.