Young women make healthy use of social media

Feb 6 2013

Researchers from the University of Newcastle and University of Queensland are using social media to encourage young women to contribute towards one of Australia’s most significant studies on women’s health.

Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube are the new tools for recruiting Gen Y women from across Australia for the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH).

Since 1996, the study has collected data from more than 40,000 women who are now in their 30s or older.  Findings contribute to knowledge on women’s health and wellbeing in Australia and are used to inform health policy.

Questions asked are on a range of health topics including weight, physical activity, use of tobacco, illicit drugs and alcohol, sexual behaviour, patterns of contraceptive use, experiences of pregnancy and childbirth, access to health services and future life goals in relation to education, travel, area of residence, work, family and children.

University of Newcastle’s Professor Julie Byles*, co-director of the ALSWH, said the findings were used to inform policy and highlight opportunities for improving the health behaviours of women at different life stages.

“A recent report for the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing compared national guidelines with actual data provided by study participants, showing that fewer women than ever are meeting guidelines for healthy weight,” Professor Byles said.

“Women who were aged 18-23 when the study began, and who are now aged between 34 and 39 years, have gained the most weight over the course of the study, with 45 per cent of this age group now overweight or obese.”

Other findings include dietary patterns among pregnant women and women’s use of screening services such as mammography and Pap tests.
University of Queensland ALSWH study director Professor Annette Dobson said they hoped to recruit a new cohort of more than 10,000 women aged between 18-23 years old.

Any interested participants can contact 1800 068 081, visit the survey website or social media sites:


All papers published in regards to the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health can be found at

ALSWH is a longitudinal population-based survey funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. The project began with more than 40,000 women randomly selected from the Medicare database in 1996.

ALSWH involves three large, nationally representative, cohorts of Australian women representing three generations: 1973-1978 cohort, aged 18 to 23 years when first recruited in 1996 and now aged 34 to 39 years in 2012; 1946-1951 cohort, aged 45 to 50 years in 1996, now aged 61 to 66 years in 2012; 1921-1926 cohort, aged 70 to 75 years in 1996, now aged 86 to 91 years in 2012.

The women have now been surveyed up to six times over the past 16 years, providing a large amount of data on their lifestyles, use of health services and health outcomes. In 2010, ALSWH findings were used extensively in the national Women’s Health Policy. In October 2012, the ALSWH added a new cohort of 18-23 year old women.

During a visit to the HMRI Building last September the Honorable Tanya Plibersek, Federal Minister for Health, announced a $4.4 million funding extension for the study.

* Professor Julie Byles is a member of HMRI’s Public Health Program based at the HMRI Building. HMRI is a partnership between Hunter New England Health, the University of Newcastle and the community.