Women make up half the population, so it makes sense that we spend a bit of time delving deeper into the health issues that affect our fairer sex, and in particular, we've chosen to focus on an aspect of women’s health that is particularly important at the moment – that of mental health.
According to Beyond Blue, at some point in their lives, one in six Australian women will experience depression, and one in three will experience anxiety. Of course, anxiety or depression can occur at any time during a woman’s life, but often either can be more prevalent in women who are pregnant or have recently had a baby. Having, or learning to care for a child is a major life event, so it is understandable if some women find that these changes have a significant impact on their mental health. There are other life events or situations that can create stressful situations for women such as:
Caring for others such as elderly relatives – women do bear the brunt of the (usually unpaid) caring for loved ones such as children or elderly parents. In fact, according to Carers Australia seven out of 10 carers are women. These are often demanding and stressful roles that can take a toll on the mental health of the carer over time, and can be time consuming as well, with a third of carers providing 40 hours or more of unpaid care per week.
Divorce or the breakdown of a relationship – these big life events affect both men and women of course, but often women then take on the duties of a single parent, or find they need to re-enter the workforce. Studies by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that childcare responsibilities for separated families fall to the mother either solely or for the majority of the time in 73% of the cases. Raising children on your own is challenging, so it is no surprise that often single mothers find they are struggling with anxiety or depression as they navigate these changes.
Abuse or violence – Sadly, one in six Australian women has experienced physical or sexual abuse before the age of 15, and one in six Australian women have also experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner when over the age of 15 (AIHW). This abuse can take a great toll on the victims, causing not only physical pain, but fear and distress, and in turn anxiety and depression.
Infertility or loss – As many as one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage which can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of women (and men). Often women don’t announce their pregnancies in the early stages, and as a result carry the burden and grief of miscarriage without leaning on friends and family for support.
Menopause – Menopause, and the hormonal challenges that come with it can be a trying time for many women, both physically and mentally. The hormonal changes can cause mood swings and anxiety and the physical challenges of lack of sleep, hot flushes and weight gain can make some women anxious and frustrated.
As if the above list isn’t enough to contend with, women (and men) have been thrown the extra challenge of dealing with Covid-19. A joint study conducted in France and The Netherlands has found that women have been affected more profoundly than men by the fallout of Covid-19 based on a variety of factors such as:
Women are more likely to work in roles where they can catch Covid-19 (such as the health sector, aged care, childcare, teaching, retail, cleaning and catering). Women working in the health sector in particular, in areas where Covid has been more prevalent, have been working under extremely stressful circumstances for extended periods of time, causing anxiety, stress, and PTSD.
Women who are already in a situation of domestic abuse may have suddenly found themselves in lockdown with their partner, exacerbating the stress around this situation.
Women are more likely to have picked up the additional tasks around home schooling, often while working from home which creates a challenging, stressful environment.
We certainly don’t want to downplay the seriousness of depression and we urge any women (or men) who are experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression to contact a GP as soon as possible to arrange treatment suitable for their own personal circumstances.
Women in particular are known for putting others first, but for those suffering from anxiety or depression it is important to prioritise your own mental health by:
Recognising the symptoms of anxiety and depression and knowing when to take action,
Reaching out to family and friends, or medical professionals to ask for help,
Reducing your intake of drugs or alcohol,
Exercising, or incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine such as walks in the fresh air or meditation,
Eating a balanced, healthy diet,
Sleeping as well as you can,
Working on ways to identify and alleviate stress by understanding where your stress and anxiety comes from (whether it be work, family, study, Covid-19 or other stressors).
Help is available for you if you are suffering from anxiety or depression. A good first place to start is by booking an appointment with a SwiftDoc GP. All our consultations are online via video call so you can call us from a location where you feel relaxed and comfortable. SwiftDoc also offers services with a psychologist, again via video call at a time and place that works for you.
There are also a number of organisations that can help such as:
Book in for an appointment with us today.
This website does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately dial Triple 0 (000).