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Women’s health, hospital visits and mental illness

Go figure: women live longer than men, yet are 7.8% more likely to be admitted to hospital

Australian women have a higher life expectancy than Australian men, living on average 4.5 years longer. However, this may not mean they are experiencing better health. In fact, Medibank data suggests women are 7.8% more likely to be admitted to hospital than men, and more likely to have longer stays.

This finding is supported by independent research that shows women report more episodes of poor health, seek medical assistance more often, take more medication, and – likely as a result of their increased life expectancy – experience a higher burden of chronic disease and disability.

Health concerns of Australian women

The Medibank data showed the most common hospital treatment for women in 2013 was digestive endoscopy (which was also the most common treatment for men). The second most common service area for women was gynaecology, while the third was psychiatry.

Mental illness is the leading cause of disability for Australian women and represents the highest burden of nonfatal illness. However, women are more likely than men to seek support for mental health concerns (41% compared with 28%). Dr Melissa Lehmann, Medibank National Specialist Services Manager, says it is important for women to be aware of what keeps them mentally well and to recognise when they might need support.

“Women’s mental health needs may vary at different times of their lives,” she says. “For example, adolescent and young women may be more prone to developing a negative body image, which is in turn linked to a range of psychological disorders such as anorexia, bulimia or depression.

“Pregnancy and the postnatal period are also a time of mental vulnerability when women may need extra care and support. Independent research shows that women in mid-life have a higher prevalence of mental illness than women in any other age groups.”

If you are struggling with your mental health, contact beyondblue or try any of these mental health support lines and websites.

Rural and regional women’s health

It’s also important to be aware that people living in rural and remote areas often experience higher rates of poor health than those living in cities. Typically, they have less access to health services as may need to travel further to seek medical attention. Women living in rural areas in particular often experience poorer health and have a lower life expectancy than those in metro areas. In addition, levels of alcohol consumption and rates of obesity and chronic disease are higher amongst women in rural regions.

Find out more at medibank.com.au

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