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Thriving in older age: A national survey of women in Australia

      Highlights

      • Almost 5000 community-based women aged 50 and over completed an online survey about their health.
      • More than half reported being in “excellent” or “very good” overall health and almost all had low levels of current anxiety.
      • Regular exercise and workforce participation were associated with better physical and mental health.
      • The findings can inform future targeted interventions to increase physical activity levels and retain older women in the workforce.

      Abstract

      Objectives

      To describe the mental and physical self-reported health of community-based women in Australia aged 50 years and over, and ascertain factors associated with better physical and emotional health.

      Study design

      A national, anonymous, online survey of women aged 18 years and above living in Australia.

      Main outcome measures

      Factors associated with better physical and mental health among women aged ≥50 years.

      Results

      Of the 10,620 women who completed the survey, 4947 (46.6%) were aged 50 years or over. More than half (60.1%) reported being in “excellent” or “very good” overall health. While almost 40% had been diagnosed with depression or anxiety by a medical doctor or a psychologist at some time in their life, almost all (89.4%) had low levels of current anxiety. Factors significantly associated with good overall health were being in paid employment, partnered, “about the right weight”, and doing at least 2.5 h of physical activity per week. Better lifelong (never been diagnosed with depression or anxiety) and current mental health were both associated with older age, being in paid employment, being partnered, being in good overall health, doing at least 2.5 h of physical activity per week, and using less health care (<5 visits to the doctor in the previous year).

      Conclusions

      The findings that regular exercise and workforce participation were associated with better physical and mental health in this growing population can inform future targeted interventions to increase physical activity levels and support the retention of older women in the workforce.

      Keywords

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