New data have shown significant mental health issues among Australian women, with more than a third saying they have had depression or anxiety
The results of the fifth annual Jean Hailes Women’s Health Survey were launched by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt – and showed that more than a third of women who responded to the survey said they have had depression (34.6%) or anxiety (39.4%).
Of the almost 10,000 respondents, 42% of women reported feeling nervous, anxious or on edge nearly every day or at least weekly in the past four weeks – and women aged between 18-35 reported the highest levels of anxiety, with 64.1% feeling nervous, anxious or on edge nearly every day or at least weekly in the past four weeks.
Women aged 18-35 are also the loneliest of all age groups—almost 40% reported feelings of loneliness every week .
More than 50% of women aged 36-65 perceive themselves as overweight or obese.
The survey’s chief investigator and Head of Research Partnerships and Philanthropy at Jean Hailes, Dr Rachel Mudge, says the survey findings “underscore the pressure that women across the country face as they juggle work, young children, as well as ageing parents and other social demands”.
“Rates of anxiety and women’s negative perceptions of their bodies are a common theme in our annual survey, something that social media seems to be fuelling,” Dr Mudge says.
In launching the results, Minister Hunt said that they reflect the health needs and behaviour of almost 10,000 women throughout Australia, and have helped shape a better understanding of the emerging issues and trends in women’s health.
“The survey reveals women want more information on anxiety than any other health topic,” Mr Hunt said.
“Women also want more information on menopause, weight management, bone health and dementia.”
He highlighted the Morrison Government’s investment in women’s health, including the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020–2030 as well as the announcement earlier this year of $35 million for ovarian and gynaecological cancer research through the Medical Research Future Fund.
“More than $37 million has been invested since 2013 through the National Health and Medical Research Council for ovarian cancer research,” Mr Hunt said.
“In 2017-18, the Government spent over $21 million to subsidise medicines for ovarian cancer on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and continues to support improved access to medicines and treatments through the PBS and Medicare.
“We have also provided over $4.5 million to Ovarian Cancer Australia for patient support for the TRACEBACK project and the Ovarian Cancer Case Management Pilot.”
Mr Hunt also highlighted the Government’s recent $13.7 million in activities to deal with endometriosis.
However the Acting Chief Executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association Dr Linc Thurecht highlighted inequities between Australian women.
“An alarming one in six women in Australia say they cannot afford to see a health professional when they need one—and the same proportion experience discrimination when doing so.
“Women aged 18–35 found it hardest to afford a health professional—comprising about one in five in this age group,” Dr Thurecht said.
“There was quite a gap between the rich and not-so-rich. People who said they were ‘living comfortably’ almost universally could see a health professional whenever they needed to.
“For people who said they were ‘just getting by’, around 40% could not afford to see a health professional.
“For people who declared they were ‘finding it very difficult’, a staggering 80% said they could not afford to see a health professional when they needed one.
“Around 16% of the total number of women surveyed felt they experienced discrimination in accessing healthcare—but this appeared to improve with age from 20% in the younger age groups to 9% for the oldest (80+) women’, Dr Thurecht said.
“For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, the proportion who felt discriminated against was around 35% compared with 16% for non-Indigenous women.
“These figures, which are about access to needed care, are very disappointing.”