WHY women worry
How do you rate your wellbeing, and what measures and precautions are you taking to ensure you are as healthy as possible? These are the questions that were asked and explored in the annual Jean Hailes for Women's Health 2017 national health survey, with the results released during Women's Health Week, held on September 4 to 8.
Jean Hailes - a not-for-profit organisation committed to improving women's knowledge and understanding of complex health issues - interviewed over 10,000 women around the lower North Shore and throughout the country, and were asked to anonymously rate their health worries and concerns. The survey confirms the top five health concerns women have this year are the following:
- Bone health
- Breast health
- Bowel health
- Painful sex
Women of different ages, socio-economic circumstances and cultures were interviewed.
According to Dr Helen Brown, the survey director and head of education and communication at Jean Hellas, many other issues were also identified by women. These included over 80 per cent of women regularly feeling nervous, anxious or on edge, and over 40 per cent of women concluding they have found it difficult to 'stop worrying'.
"We are confident our survey is fairly representative of women in Australia today," Dr Brown tells North Shore Living.
"So there is no doubt many females are worried and anxious on a regular basis. This comes through clearly in the survey results - but the positive thing to come out of this is that they recognise they have some type of worry or anxiety, and this may help them on the path to resolving their issues or seeking professional help," she states.
North Shore females' major concerns reflect that of women around Australia.
For Mosman resident Carla Mold, the issue of menopause was one area of her health that has had a significant impact on her life over the past 10 years. Her own emotional and at times extremely stressful and exhausting journey was marked this year by a diagnosis of stage one endometrial cancer, but now successful treatment has left her "never feeling better in my life".
"Menopause or perhaps perimenopause was a troubling time for me," she tells North Shore Living.
"At 44, I started getting unusually cold feet and a hot chest, which made sleep uncomfortable. My gynaecologist said the average age of menopause was 51, so I reasoned that I would have to put up with the hot flushes and brain fog for another seven years!
"Although my doctor offered me hormone replacements, 12 years ago the information on this was mixed. Some studies said it could lead to cancer and some studies said it wouldn't. The tablets I was issued with said not to take them for more than five years - so when I picked the box up from the chemist I threw it out... That meant I had to put up with these symptoms," she explains.
"The worst thing was what the hormones did to my memory - I had to write down everything and get rid of every synthetic piece of clothing I owned due to the hot flushes. I learned to wear layers I could strip off fast."
Ms Mold adds her mood changed dramatically. "I had to learn to bite my tongue, but that was really hard. My husband wondered how long he would have to put up with this demon woman he'd married and frankly, so did I," she reveals.
After more procedures and problems, she was eventually diagnosed with endometrial cancer and now - after a long journey - she says she is conscious that "life is short and I have a long bucket list I want to do because I'm interested in so many things."
Neutral Bay resident and 29-year-old flight attendant Elle says the Jean Hailes survey results resonate with her on a number of levels.
Having changed her career in the past few months due to stress levels in her previous employment, she says she's not surprised many women are suffering from stress and burnout.
"We all need to look after not only our physical but our mental health," she tells North Shore Living.
"I also have a number of females in my family who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, so that is obviously another concern.
“Breast health and bone health hit close to home." Elle says one of her immediate targets is to exercise more in the coming months.
"Anxiety can also be work-related - especially in Sydney," she says.
"Many jobs are really demanding and people have got to try and alleviate this."
Women's Health Week will be held nationally from September 4 to 8, and Dr Brown tells North Shore Living one of the big themes this year will be that often women are likely to put the wellbeing of others ahead of themselves.
"But if a woman is healthy, her family is likely to be healthier, too. It's about investing time in yourself for not only your sake, but the sake of your loved ones. Health professionals play an important role in helping women stay healthy and happy. A good general practitioner is someone a woman can trust and talk to about any issues or concerns she has.
This is as much about preventative health as GPs offering support with any specific health issues," she confirms.
Despite women being worried about a number of health issues, Dr Brown says these top issues are actually very encouraging to acknowledge.
"These are real health issues and, if women are aware of their own concerns early on, they can make a difference in trying to prevent these problems," she says.