Womens Health

Women’s Health

Why is it so important?

At the Madison Medical Practices all our female GPs, are concerned with Women’s health and understand the importance of regular medical reviews as in our busy society many place their health as a low priority due to family, work or life pressures. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reinforced our focus on women’s wellbeing, by conducting an in-depth report to show that no matter where you live, all women need to take care of their health. Below is a summary of this detailed report on the Health of Women in Australia that was last updated in 2019.

In 2018, just over half of Australia’s population—51% or 12.6 million people—were female. On average, Australian females experience different health outcomes than Australian males. Compared with males, females have a higher life expectancy and experienced more of their total disease burden due to living with disease rather than from dying early from disease and injury. They are more likely than males to experience sexual violence and to have multiple chronic conditions. To learn more about the health outcomes of males, see The health of Australia’s males. Cat. no: PHE 240 Findings from this report: Almost half of Australian females (49%) had 1 or more of the 10 selected chronic conditions in 2017–18. The leading cause of death for females in 2017 was Dementia and Alzheimer disease. 2 in 5 women were sufficiently physically active in 2017–18. The leading cause of total disease burden for females in 2015 was coronary heart disease.

A person’s lifestyle influences how healthy they are. A lifestyle including exercise, a well-balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy body weight reduces the risk of poor health. Risk factors such as smoking tobacco, consuming alcohol and illicit substance use, or being exposed to violence, increase the likelihood of poor health.

Physical activity

Low levels of physical activity are a major risk factor for chronic conditions. People who do not do sufficient physical activity have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Being physically active improves mental and musculoskeletal health and reduces other risk factors such as overweight and obesity, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. Physical activity can also be helpful in the management and treatment of many chronic conditions—by improving symptoms, and/or delaying or halting progression of the condition or the onset of associated diseases and complications (Pedersen & Saltin 2015).


Fruit and vegetables

The foods and drinks we consume (our diet) play an important role in our overall health and wellbeing. A balanced diet, including sufficient fruit and vegetables, reduces a person’s risk of developing conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend, for females, to consume a minimum of 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables each day, depending on age, to ensure good nutrition and health.

Overweight and obesity

Excess body weight, known as overweight and obesity, is a risk factor for many conditions, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnoea and osteoarthritis. Overweight and obesity is among the leading causes of death and disability in Australia (AIHW 2019a). Body Mass Index (BMI) One way of measuring excess body weight at the population level is to use the body mass index (BMI)—an internationally recognised standard for classifying overweight and obesity in adults. BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres. Differences in body composition may affect the appropriateness of BMI, and different BMI cut-off points may need to be considered for certain population groups such as: older people people with high muscle mass certain ethnic groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Pacific Islander, South Asian, Chinese and Japanese populations (NHMRC 2013). Height and body composition are continually changing for children and adolescents. A separate classification of overweight and obesity for children is used based on age and sex (Cole et al. 2000).

Tobacco smoking, alcohol and illicit drugs

Tobacco smoking is the leading preventable cause of poor health and death in Australia (AIHW 2019a). 1 in 9 Australian women smoke daily The main data sources reporting on tobacco smoking in Australia are: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Health Surveys (NHS) ABS National Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS). Although these surveys employ different methodologies, results for adult women were similar. Both the 2017–18 NHS and 2016 NDSHS showed that 1 in 9 (11.1%) women aged 18 or over smoked daily. Different age groups for girls were reported in each survey. Based on the: 2017–18 NHS, 1.1% of girls aged 15–17 smoked daily (ABS 2018) 2016 NDSHS, 3.2% of girls aged 14–19 smoked daily (AIHW 2017b). Based on the NDSHS, there has been a long-term downward trend in tobacco smoking among Australian females aged 14 and over, decreasing from 17.9% in 2001 to 10.7% in 2016. Based on the 2017–18 NHS, smoking rates among adult women (aged 18 years and over) varied by age group, peaking in middle age and then decreasing with age, with rates being lowest in women aged 75 years and over (3.7%) (ABS 2018)


Violence is the intentional threat or actual use of physical force or power against oneself, another person, or a group, that results in injury, death, psychological harm, abnormal growth or deprivation. Almost 2 in 5 Australian women have experienced violence since the age of 15. In 2016, for women aged 18 or over (ABS 2017): Around 7 in 20 (37%) had experienced violence since the age of 15—of these, 3 in 10 (31%) had experienced physical violence and around 2 in 10 (18%) had experienced sexual violence. 1 in 20 (4.5%) had experienced violence in the last 12 months, with the highest rates among women aged 18–24 (12%) and the lowest among women aged 65 and over (1.2%). Around 3 in 20 (17%) had experienced partner violence since the age of 15. Around 3 in 20 (17%) had experienced an episode of stalking since the age of 15. 1 in 4 (23%) had experienced emotional abuse by a partner since the age of 15. Over half (53%) had experienced sexual harassment during their lifetime.

How healthy are Australia’s females?

Burden of disease Burden of disease quantifies the health impact of disease on a population in a given year—both from dying early and from living with disease and injury. The summary measure ‘disability-adjusted life years’ (or DALY) measures the years of healthy life lost from death and illness. In 2015, females experienced a smaller share of the total disease burden (47%) than males (53%). A larger proportion of the total disease burden for females was caused by living with disease. For males, the greatest proportion of total burden was caused by premature death (AIHW 2019a). The distribution of overall burden between the sexes varied by disease group. Compared with males, females experience a greater proportion of the total burden from (AIHW 2019a): blood and metabolic disorders (59%) neurological conditions (58%) musculoskeletal conditions (55%). Nearly half (44%) of the total burden of disease for females is from cancer, musculoskeletal conditions, and cardiovascular disease. After cancer, the ranking of disease groups contributing to total burden of disease differed for females and males. For females, musculoskeletal conditions ranked second, followed by mental and substance use disorders, cardiovascular diseases and neurological conditions (AIHW 2019a). After coronary heart disease, the specific diseases responsible for the most total burden among males and females differed. Among females, dementia ranked second, followed by back pain and problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and anxiety disorders (Table 1). For more information see Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2015 Table 1: Leading 10 causes of total disease burden (DALY), by disease, females, 2015 Disease DALY Proportion (%) Coronary heart disease 111,999 or 5.0% Dementia 110,615 or  5.0%  Back pain and problems 98,356 or 4.4% Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 91,670 or 4.1% Anxiety disorders 90,468 or 4.1% Depressive disorders 78,290 or  3.5% Osteoarthritis 74,902 or 3.4%  Breast cancer 69,690 or 3.1% Asthma 66,796 or 3.0% Lung cancer 65,635 or 2.9%  (a) DALY = Disability Adjusted Life-Year. Chart: AIHW. Source: AIHW 2019a.

Chronic conditions

The term ‘chronic condition’ encompasses a broad range of chronic and complex health conditions across the spectrum of illness. Both communicable and non-communicable diseases can become chronic, however, the monitoring of chronic conditions in developed countries focuses primarily on non-communicable disease. According to the National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions (Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council 2017), chronic conditions: have complex and multiple causes may affect individuals alone or with other diseases usually have a gradual onset occur across the life cycle compromise quality of life and create limitations and disability are long-term and persistent. Chronic conditions pose significant health problems and have a range of potential impacts on individual circumstances. Chronic conditions also have a significant impact on the health sector. Data in this section focus on 10 common chronic conditions including arthritis, asthma, back problems, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, heart, stroke and vascular disease, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis and mental health conditions. Data from the 2017–18 National Health Survey (NHS) provide an estimate of the prevalence of a number of chronic conditions among the Australian population. This survey data is self-reported and is therefore likely to under-report the true prevalence of chronic conditions. 1 in 2 Australian females have 1 or more of the 10 selected common chronic conditions According to 2017–18 data, 1 in 2 (49%) Australian females are estimated to have one or more of the 10 selected common chronic conditions. Of these females, 26% have one condition, 13% have two, and 10% have three or more. The self-reported prevalence of these chronic conditions varies with age (ABS 2018a): around 4 in 5 women aged 65 and over (83%) have at least one chronic condition around 2 in 5 women aged 45 and under do (43%). Table 2: Selected chronic conditions, females, 2017–18 (a) Condition Number % (b) Mental and behavioural problems 2,709,500 or 22.3% Arthritis 2,183,500 or 17.9% Back problems 1,978,800 or 16.3% Asthma 1,497,300 or  12.3%  Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (c) 250,994 or  5.1% Diabetes 525,200 or 4.3%  Heart, stroke and vascular disease (d) 510,400 or 4.2% Cancer 179,700 or 1.5% Chronic kidney disease 120,800 or 1.0%  Osteoporosis 749,200 or 6%.

For more information about your health please speak with our friending staff so we can help align a Female General Practitioner to help and maintain your general health For more information about this report please go to – https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/0260a910-fe72-4d6b-8c7d-519557d465c8/The-health-of-Australia-s-females.pdf.aspx?inline=true