Women's Health - Longitudinal Study

The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH), which is also known as Women’s Health Australia, is a landmark longitudinal survey funded by the Department of Health.

Page last updated: 11 September 2015

The Study, which began in 1995, assesses the physical and mental health of over 58,000 women around Australia.

ALSWH has contributed significantly to the evidence in women’s health and provides valuable information on health across the lifespan to inform policies and programs.

The Study follows four cohorts of women representing four generations, across key stages of their lives. The cohorts include:

  • Three original cohorts of women born in the years 1921-26, 1946-51 and 1973-78; and
  • A New Young Cohort of women born in the years 1989-94.
The Study collects information on the health of women, the social, behavioural and economic determinants of health and use of health related services as well psychosocial factors and lifestyle choices around family and workforce participation.

Each cohort of women is surveyed regularly. The 1973-78 and 1946-51 cohorts receive surveys every three years. At commencement in 1996, the 1921-26 cohort received surveys at three yearly intervals. Since completing their sixth survey in 2011 these women, who are now in their late 80s and early 90s, have received surveys at six-monthly intervals. Women in the New Young Cohort, born 1989-94, are surveyed annually and completed their first survey in 2012-13.

Data collected through these regular surveys is augmented by linkage with other data sets such as the Medicare Benefits Schedule and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Aims and objectives of the ALSWH

The ALSWH provides a data resource that can be drawn on by Australian governments, researchers, service providers and communities. The Study is designed to enhance understanding of the many factors that enhance or inhibit good health in women.

The objectives of the ALSWH are:
  • To collect scientifically valid information about the current health and health service use of women which will provide an evidence base for the development and evaluation of health policy and practice relevant to Australian women;
  • To gather information about social experiences and environmental influences on women, including information about families of origin, traumatic or stressful events, and social inclusion;
  • To examine patterns of contraceptive use, experiences of pregnancy and childbirth, and other reproductive health issues; and
  • To examine women’s access to sources of information about, and use of health services and preventive health activities.
It addresses a range of research questions, including:
    • The impact of changes in work, nutrition, physical activity and social circumstances on health outcomes such as obesity, chronic conditions, musculo-skeletal disorders and mental health;
    • The relationship between women’s health and nutrition and physical activity patterns over changing life-stages and circumstances, including workforce effects; and
    • The relationship between women’s health and various forms of work including paid work, unpaid work, volunteering, caring for older people and caring for children.
The Study assesses:
  • Physical and emotional health (including well-being, major diagnoses, symptoms);
  • Use of health services (GP, specialist and other visits, access, satisfaction);
  • Health behaviours and risk factors (diet, exercise, smoking alcohol, other drugs);
  • Time use (including paid and unpaid work, family roles and leisure);
  • Socio-demographic factors (location, education, employment, family composition); and
  • Life stages and key events (such as childbirth, divorce, widowhood).

New Young Cohort

In 2011, the Study received funding from the Department of Health to establish a new cohort of over 17,000 young women aged 18 to 23 (born 1989-95), comprising the fourth ALSWH cohort. Participation was open to young women in Australia aged 18-23 years who had a valid Australian Medicare card.

The New Young Cohort is adding to the information from existing ALSWH cohorts of women as well as focusing on the impact of changes in women’s lifestyles, health, health service use and communications since commencement of the study in 1995. This is contributing to the evidence base to support policy and practice relevant to a new generation of Australian women.

Who is involved in the Study?

The Study is being conducted collaboratively by the University of Newcastle and the University of Queensland.

Professor Gita Mishra, University of Queensland School of Population Health, is the ALSWH Director. Professor Julie Byles, University of Newcastle Research Centre for Gender Health and Ageing, is ALSWH Co-Director.

The Study is supported by a Steering Committee responsible for the overall direction of activities and resources. In addition, the ALSWH Advisory Committee enhances linkages between the Study and key stakeholders across government.

Evaluation of the ALSWH

In 2014 ACIL Allen Consulting was engaged to undertake an evaluation of the ALSWH, to consider the quality of the data collected, the extent to which it has contributed to the knowledge base on women’s health, and identify opportunities to maximise the future value of the Study. The evaluation found the ALSWH to be a public resource of great value to Australia.

Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health - Evaluation (Word 270 KB)
Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health - Evaluation (PDF 770 KB)

Recognition of the ALSWH

The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) was awarded the Council of Academic and Public Health (CAPHIA) Team award for excellence and innovation in public health research, at the opening of their annual Forum in Hobart.


ALSWH reports can be found on the ALSWH website, including:
  • Chronic conditions, physical function and health care use: Findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (2015).
  • Health and wellbeing of women aged 18 to 23 in 2013 and 1996: Findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (2014).
  • Mental health: Findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (2013).
  • Adherence to Health Guidelines: Findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (2012); and
  • Rural, Remote and Regional Differences in Women’s Health: Findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (2011).
The ALSWH website also provides:
  • the ALSWH Data Book for each survey;
  • published ALWSH literature; and
  • independent funding analysis of ALSWH data.


The ALSWH is funded by the Department of Health under the Health Surveys Social Fund (HSSF). The key objective of the fund is to establish a comprehensive evidence base to underpin development, implementation and evaluation of relevant health policies.

The ALSWH complements existing longitudinal studies occurring in Australia including the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children which commenced in 2004 and the Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health which commenced in 2011.