Most women describe their overall health as good or very good, but mental health issues are rife
Jean Hailes for Women’s Health has released its latest survey based on the responses of over 10,000 Australian women aged 18 to 80+.
Here is an overview of the findings.
- Three quarters of women reported their overall health as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.
- Fifteen percent rated their health as excellent, while 7% said their health was ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
- Most respondents identified as being about the right weight or only slightly overweight, but more than 20% said they were ‘quite overweight’.
- The majority of participants (95%) were non-smokers.
- Approximately 60% of women were not taking part in at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week. The main barriers included being too tired and lack of time.
What is important to women?
The most commonly requested health topic information included:
- Healthy eating/nutrition (46.6%)
- Mindfulness/meditation (46.1%)
- Sleep/fatigue (44.2%)
- Memory/concentration (40.3%)
- Weight management (39.4%)
- Stress management (38.8%)
- Physical activity/exercise (38.8%)
- Bone health/osteoporosis (37%)
- Natural therapies/supplements (36.6%)
- Life/work balance (35%)
Trust in medical professionals
Nearly all participants (97.5%) said they saw health professionals including doctors, allied health, nurses and specialists as sources of trustworthy and reliable health information.
Meanwhile, 50% said they trusted Google or other internet search websites for reliable health information.
Only 8% of respondents trusted health information accessed via social media.
However most (52.6%) preferred to access women’s health information online.
Mental health issues rife
About 40% of respondents reported having been professionally diagnosed with depression or anxiety.
Nearly half of women reported that on several days they worry excessively about different things, become easily annoyed or distracted, and have trouble sleeping.
The most anxious age group was women aged 18 to 35 years, with severity of anxiety decreasing with each increase in age group.
Women who were older and tertiary educated were less likely to experience moderate levels of anxiety than younger, less educated women.
“We see a large variety of mental health presentations, but the most common would be anxiety and depression,” says pharmacist Elise Apolloni, whose team at Capital Chemist Wanniassa, ACT, are all trained mental health first aid officers.
Locum pharmacist Luke Vrankovich has seen a similar trend.
“In the pharmacy I am faced everyday with young people who have either one, or a mixture of, anxiety and depression. Anxiety, seems more prevalent in the young population, perhaps due to heightened social and educational pressures and self-expectation,” he says.
“However, suicidal ideations are more common than one would think.
“With suicide being the leading cause of death in people aged 15-44, there is no doubt this is the most difficult issue surrounding mental health in Australia,” says Vrankovich.
“This is for many reasons including stigma, patient withdrawal, lack of recognition of warning signs, and lack of relationship with an appropriate healthcare professional.”
Pharmacists are well-placed to use their skills and experience in a safe and appropriate way to help people experiencing mental health difficulties.
While diagnosing is not part of a pharmacists’ scope of practice, they “have the opportunity to recognise potential psychological distress and there is a good opportunity for the pharmacist to have a conversation and discuss what they have noticed”, says the PSA in its Mental Health Care Project framework.
“Pharmacists who notice early signs that a person may be at risk of developing or exacerbating a mental illness can refer or encourage people to seek further assessment from their GP or other available mental health services,” it says.