Are you female, depressed and anxious? You're not alone

Are you female, depressed and anxious? You're not alone
Are you female, depressed and anxious? You're not alone

Australian women are smoking less and exercising more, but most still feel anxious on a daily basis and a significant number have been diagnosed with depression, according to one of the nation's biggest health studies.

The data provides compelling insights into the wellbeing of today's women, who have been christened the "sandwich generation" as they grapple with their children and career on one end of the spectrum and ageing parents on the other.

The Women's Health Survey 2018 spoke to 15,000 women from across Australia and found:

66.9 per cent of women felt nervous, anxious or on edge nearly every day, or on more than seven days in the last four weeks 46.1 per cent had been diagnosed with clinical depression or anxiety 34.3 per cent of women reported that they didn't get time to themselves on a weekly basis 70.3 per cent reported doing at least two hours of exercise per week 50.8 per cent described themselves as overweight or obese

The study was put together by the not-for-profit organisation Jean Hailes for Women's Health, ahead of Women's Health Week on Monday.

"It did tell us that women are very busy and they're trying to make health a priority but … perhaps [are] finding that quite a challenge," said Chris Enright, who was on the team that spearheaded the study.

"Usually women put their health last and are very good at caretaking for other people, but this has really highlighted to us that women's health is a really significant issue."

Researchers were surprised to find that almost half the women who responded had been professionally diagnosed with depression or anxiety and two-thirds felt nervous or on edge nearly every day.

That figure was up compared to last year, where only about 40 per cent had been diagnosed.

Ms Enright said it was a challenging time to be a woman.

"Nearly 10 per cent of women are drinking on a daily basis, which we think is potentially linked to a kind of mental and emotional health," she said.

Women 'trying to do too much'

The data paints a complex picture of modern women, according to Jean Hailes for Women's Health director Janet Michelmore.

Photo Even though most women said they exercised for at least two hours every week, about half considered themselves overweight or obese.

Flickr: Canadian Pacific (CC BY-NC 2.0)

She said time was the biggest barrier for women.

"Women are trying to do too much or they think they're expected to do so much," she said.

"I think this is where social media plays a part in this, that whatever you see on social media is the perfect look. I've never seen anyone looking bedraggled or grumpy on social media."

Ms Michelmore said in light of the digital age, it was vital for women to find a reliable source of information when it came to their health.

She also hoped the data would inspire women.

"I think women are great supporters and great nudgers of other people, and what we hope this survey will do and what Women's Health Week will do is give women a gentle but firm nudge to take greater care of themselves.

"Take time to put yourself first, make sure you know about your health, know what the risks are and in fact appreciate that small changes have big rewards."

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