The annual Jean Hailes Women’s Health Survey asked over 15,000 women living in Australia and aged 18 or over about a range of factors to do with their health and wellbeing.

Among some of the key findings:

  • 66.9 per cent reported feeling nervous, anxious or on edge in the last four weeks.
  • Almost half of the women (46.1 per cent) who responded to the survey had been diagnosed with depression or anxiety by a doctor or psychologist. This up on 40 per cent from last year.
  • 23.9 per cent women said they could not afford to see a health professional when they needed one.
  • 50.8 per cent described themselves as overweight or obese. This is despite 70.3 per cent of respondents reporting they do at least two hours of moderate physical activity per week.
  • 34.3 per cent reported not getting enough time to themselves on a week-to-week basis.
  • 9.5 per cent said they drink alcohol every day.

The results highlight some key areas affecting women that need to be talked about.

"Usually women put their health last and are very good at caretaking for other people,” said Chris Enright, who lead the survey from Jean Hailes. “This has really highlighted to us that women's health is a really significant issue."

There are many factors specific to women that contribute to the above findings.

Many women surveyed fall within a category that has become known as the “sandwich generation”. This refers to their responsibility in looking after ageing parents whilst simultaneously raising their own children. It’s little wonder over a third of respondents said they didn’t get enough time to themselves each week. This pressure can also contribute to feelings of anxiety and lead to unhealthy habits like drinking alcohol every day.

Often juggling the demands of trying to be a perfect worker, parent, partner and friend can be nothing short of exhausting. And when women feel they have fallen short of these standards, they can be quick to self-criticise.A lady crosses off items on her to-do listSocial media also plays a part in setting perfectionist ideals, no matter what the person’s age. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook allow anyone to share glimpses into their own life whilst peering into someone else’s, and this can have a significant effect on how someone views themself. Many people use social media to portray the best side of themselves. Scroll through the news feed and you’ll likely see that friend’s beach getaway, the shiny new dress, the gym bod on that Instagram model you follow, the amazing meals… it’s not exactly an accurate portrayal of day-to-day life, is it? This can lead to feelings that you are somehow inadequate, and live a life not quite as exciting as others.

Relationship breakdowns can have a profound impact on women’s mental health. Women who are separated, divorced or widowed are more likely to experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Violence against women is another huge issue. Statistics show that one in four women in Australia has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner; and one in four has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.

The message to be learned is clear – when it comes to mental health, women need to put themselves first.

If you are experiencing depression or anxiety, the beyondblue support service is here for you. Call 1300 22 46 36 or chat online. If you’re not sure about whether your should seek help, you can take our anxiety and depression K10 checklist.

Related reading: Finding the work-life balance sweet spot

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