40% of Australian Women Diagnosed with Depression or Anxiety

A survey of more than 10,000 Australian women found 40% have been professionally diagnosed with depression or anxiety.

The Jean Hailes Women’s Health survey 2017 released on Sunday, also found 60% did not meet the recommended 2.5 hours of weekly physical activity because for many they were “too tired” or it was too “hard” to find the time.

Two out of five women surveyed, aged 18-89, considered themselves slightly overweight, while 20% said they were quite overweight.

Only a quarter had been screened for sexually transmitted infections in the last five years. The survey found 95% of women were non-smokers.

The survey director, Dr Helen Brown, said the findings raised particular concern about the mental health of young women.

“The 18 to 35-year-olds had the highest anxiety scores, that’s even more telling,” she said.

Technology and social media was to blame, Brown said. “I think they put an enormous amount of pressure on themselves to be ‘ever-ready’, to be on Instagram et cetera, which means they constantly have their phone in their hand and being ready for it,” Brown said.

The survey asked women what had bothered them in the past two weeks and nearly half agreed to “worrying too much about different things”.

More than 40% reported feeling anxious, nervous and “on the edge”, while many agreed to regularly feeling easily annoyed or irritated.

Adding to a woman’s anxiety was an overload of health information available to them online, the survey concluded.

“They are getting a lot of information about their health but actually they are getting too much and so they’re getting confused as to what they should trust,” said Brown.

“In the old days we used to get health messages from our GPs, you know very restricted views, and now that it’s open to everything its really hard to work out who to believe.”

The survey found women were most concerned about menopause, bone health, breast and bowel health, and painful sex.

The advice for women was to go back to the “basics”. “Behaviour change is extremely complicated, we live in a very complex environment but it’s still trying to remember the basics of eating well, exercising well or being active,” said Brown.

She said being active did not mean going for a 10km run or going to the gym.

“Physical activity’s not about that – it’s just making sure you’re active throughout the day, like using the stairs instead of the lift,” Brown said.

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