Alarming mental health results for NZ women
9 May 2005
Alarming mental health results for NZ women
42% diagnosed with clinical or post-natal depression
New Zealand women are suffering poor mental health but are not getting the support or information they need, according to the results of Next magazine’s inaugural national women’s health survey announced today.
The survey, which received almost 5,000 responses, covered topics including long-term health, nutrition and diet, smoking and alcohol, mental and spiritual wellbeing, alternative health and medicine, and access to advice.
“The most alarming results are in the mental health area,” says Next Editor Susannah Walker. “Forty-two percent of respondents stated that they have been diagnosed with clinical or post-natal depression, which is more than twice what medical experts estimate, and only a little over half consider themselves to be cured.”
Sue Turner, Acting Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, says that the figure exceeds estimates (around 20%), however the response also shows that many women are seeking help.
“We advocate talking to your GP, talking to your friends, and looking at what’s available in terms of support groups. We want to really encourage people to ask for help. With good support and treatment you can have depression and still live your life in a positive way,” Ms Turner says.
However a third of respondents said they didn’t feel they received adequate support when depressed. “Partners ranked very low as support people for women with depression, behind close friends and other family,” says Ms Walker.
“Our survey shows that support for women dealing with health issues is inadequate across the board. Only 67% of women said their GPs, and 55% their specialist health providers, were their most trusted source of health information. This really alarms us as it suggests that many women feel they are not getting reliable health advice.”
Women are looking beyond conventional medicine for help however, with 92% saying that they believe natural remedies to be valid treatments. Massage is the most common alternative therapy used in the last year (64%) followed by homeopathy (31%), bach flower remedies (29%), and naturopathy (24%).
Sue Turner believes this is good news for depression sufferers. “Treatment comes in many forms and it’s about what works for different people – it could be a mixture of antidepressant medication, counselling and alternative health practices.”
Next advocates this approach and the importance of having a positive self-image for overall health and well-being. “We were shocked to find that only 11% of women consider themselves to have excellent self-esteem. For most women that’s probably only one of their friends,” says Ms Walker.
“Good health starts from within and we are going to be working hard to give women the information and support they need to feel better about themselves. We were pleased that more than half of respondents feel pretty good, but we want to help them feel fantastic!
“Health is a really important issue for women and this is an area where Next can make a genuine difference. The survey results are invaluable for helping us, as well as healthcare providers, understand the real problems for women’s health in New Zealand. They will make it easier for us to take the lead in providing quality information and advice to women on the issues that matter to them.”
A full report on the results is available in the June issue of Next, on sale Monday 9 May.
Next magazine has an average readership of 379,000 per month. Around half of Next’s readers have a tertiary qualification, almost two thirds are married and three quarters own their own homes. Two thirds are in paid employment, primarily in legal, business, engineering, teaching, nursing, information technology, art and sport professions.
NZ Women’s Health Survey Results
· Next has an average monthly readership of 379,000*
· 4,720 responses were received to the survey
· 100% female respondents
· 43% of respondents were under 40; 71% were under 50
Mental and spiritual wellbeing
· 42% of respondents have been diagnosed with clinical depression or post natal depression
· 75% experienced symptoms from very to quite severe
· Only a little over half consider themselves to be cured
· More than 30% don’t feel they received adequate support when depressed
· Partners rank midway in terms of support – below doctor, close friends and other family
· 48% have had counselling or therapy of some sort, the largest reason being marital or relationship problems - over 75% found this to be helpful
· 11% consider their self-esteem to be excellent
· 65% feel average to pretty good about themselves
· 23% feel their self-esteem is low or could be better
· 49% are quite to very happy about the way they look
· 33% would like to look better
· 37% are stressed often to all the time - stress is most often caused by juggling work and home-life, together with financial worries and the demands of home and family
· 54% feel they are overweight
· 27% of respondents want to lose weight to feel better about themselves/raise their self-esteem and confidence
· More than 80% have regular Pap smears and more than 30% have had an abnormal result
· Almost 1 in 5 have had a breast cancer scare yet more than half do not have regular mammograms - 51% of 40 to 49 year olds don’t have them regularly
· 24% say they have a great sex life although almost 31% say their sex life isn’t satisfying or that it could be better
· Respondents are quite sexually active – almost 70% are intimate at least once a week
· 63% of those who took action regarding fertility problems were successful but 22% are still trying
· 31% have had a miscarriage and 13% an abortion.
Smoking & alcohol
· 4% currently smoke - 36% have smoked in the past
· The main reasons cited for smoking was socialising
· 93% of those who had tried to give up were successful
· Almost 60% are regular drinkers (at least once a week) - they are most likely to drink at home with family or friends (80%) or socially when they’re out (72%)
· 26% suffer from chronic/long-term health conditions - arthritis, asthma and endometriosis were the most frequently mentioned long-term health conditions
· 59% have experienced PMT
· 50% have back problems.
· Cancer is the biggest worry for personal health – it was mentioned by 35% of respondents
· 18% were also concerned about aspects of ageing – dying, terminal illness, Alzheimer’s, and not being able to care for themselves or others
Alternative health & medicine
· Respondents were open to alternative treatment - 92% believe natural remedies to be valid treatments
· Massage is the highest therapy to have been used in the last year (64%) followed by homeopathy (31%), bach flower remedies (29%), and naturopathy (24%)
· Respondents are most interested in considering the use of a nutritionist (55%), acupuncture (47%), naturopathy (38%), reflexology (36%), homeopathy (35%), in the future
· 67% take vitamin/mineral supplements regularly
• 34% often lack or never have any energy
• 53% don’t have enough ‘me’ time
• 74% exercise regularly – mostly walking
Nutrition & diet
· 78% say they have a balanced diet
· 20% describe their diet as rather haphazard with 2% not paying any attention to their diet
· 52% feel they have a healthy relationship with food
· 45% describe their relationship with food as erratic and unbalanced
· 5% say they have or have had an eating disorder
Accessing health information
· The most trusted source of information is from their local GP (67%), Specialist doctor (55%) and Pharmacist (26%). Magazines are ranked just over half way as trusted sources of information, following friends and family and alternative practitioners
* Nielsen Media Research National Readership Survey, January – December 2004