Survey reveals decline of women's health

·2-min read

Women are continuing to suffer from the health effects of the pandemic regardless of whether they have contracted COVID-19 or not, a new survey has found.

The national survey - conducted by researchers for women's health organisation Jean Hailes - found there had been a significant decline in women's physical and mental health since the pandemic began.

Nearly half of the 14,000 survey respondents said their physical health had declined, citing weight gain, fitness loss and muscle and joint pain as the most common problems.

One in five respondents said their mental health had stopped them engaging in everyday activities and 17 per cent reported a pre-existing mental health condition had worsened.

Researchers had expected there would be a significant recovery in women's health but the data collected for the survey revealed the opposite, Monash University Global and Women's Health director Jane Fisher said.

"We haven't seen the bounce back in physical or mental health we were expecting to see by now," she said.

Women were also more likely to forgo important health checks, with eight per cent reporting a missed mammogram or cervical screening.

The survey also highlighted major health inequities particularly for women living with a disability, those from non-English speaking backgrounds, and in LGBTIQ and First Nations communities.

Nearly 45 per cent of all women said they could not afford to see a doctor or health professional.

But the same problem was reported by 70 per cent of women speaking a language other than English, 62 per cent of those with a disability and nearly half of Indigenous women.

More than half of women from a non-English speaking background said they could not find health information in their own language.

The survey had identified a clear opportunity for government and community organisations to invest in communicating important health information in more languages, Ethnolink translation services founder Costa Vasili said.

Meanwhile, young women aged 18 to 25 were more likely to report a deterioration in their mental health.

Nearly 60 per cent of women in the age group said their mental health had declined since the beginning of the pandemic compared to 45 per cent of all women.

Younger women continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic as the nation moves to embrace a 'COVID normal', Monash University research fellow Prerna Varma said.

"Our research at the start of the pandemic revealed that mental health was significantly worse in younger people," she said.

"With Jean Hailes' survey, we can see how the pandemic has disrupted their lives, altering lifestyles, changing opportunities, and increasing isolation in younger women."