Anxiety and depression key issues for women – new survey

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Australian women are anxious, lonely and concerned about their weight.

These are the worrying results of the fifth annual Jean Hailes Women's Health Survey, released this week.

Almost 10,000 women from across Australia completed the online survey, offering valuable insights into their health concerns, needs and behaviours.

The survey results reveal the rates of women experiencing discrimination in accessing health care, their perceptions of weight, rates of anxiety and depression, how many women are choosing to freeze their eggs and much more.

The survey’s chief investigator and Head of Research Partnerships and Philanthropy at Jean Hailes, Dr Rachel Mudge, said the survey findings underscored the pressure that women across the country were facing.

“Women are juggling work and young children, as well as ageing parents and other social demands,” she said.

Some key findings included:

  • more than a third of women who responded to the survey said they have had depression (34.6 per cent) or anxiety (39.4 per cent)
  • 42 percent of women reported feeling nervous, anxious or on edge nearly every day or at least weekly in the past four weeks
  • women aged between 18-35 reported the highest levels of anxiety, with 64.1 percent 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 percent reported feelings of loneliness every week
  • more than 50 percent of women aged 36-65 perceive themselves as overweight or obese.

Chair of the Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) psychiatric committee and Toowong Private Hospital CEO Christine Gee, said private hospitals treat about 40,000 Australians every year. She said 62 percent of those are women, often with severe depression and related disorders.

“Last year, in excess of 26,000 episodes of care were provided to women, a significant proportion of that care was in the treatment of severe major depression and related disorders. Indeed, patients with moderate to severe high prevalence mental health disorders are the most common diagnoses treated in private mental health hospitals. In the absence of private mental health hospital treatment, patients suffering these mental health disorders do not have a public sector treatment alternative when they require hospitalisation.

“Ensuring Australians are empowered with personal choice and rapid access to affordable hospital care of the highest quality is a key driver of APHA.

"The Australian Government’s support for people with mental health needs through the 2018 private health insurance reform, was a very welcome measure and has assisted thousands of Australians in that time of health crisis. This measure allows for a once-in-a-lifetime immediate upgrade to health insurance policies for individuals to be able to access treatment within our private mental health facilities.

"Access to this vital care when it is needed is paramount; private hospitals play an integral role in the delivery of acute mental health care and treatment in Australia."

There are currently 32 stand–alone private mental health hospitals and 33 mental health units located within private general hospitals providing about 3,166 in-patient beds and offering specialised multidisciplinary care and services across a range of treatment settings including inpatient, day patient and into the community.

Federal health minister, Greg Hunt, said the survey 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,” he said.

“Women also want more information on menopause, weight management, bone health and dementia.

“The Government is committed to improving the lives of all Australian women.

“We have invested $50 million in initiatives for women, including the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020–2030, which establishes a national approach to improving the health of women and girls across the country."

Jean Hailes CEO, David Lloyd, said the survey provided a “powerful snapshot of the state of women’s health and wellbeing across the country”.

“Our findings will be used in many ways and will contribute to the creation of new resources for women and the health professionals who care for them,” Mr Lloyd said.

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