Published Papers - Abstract 17

Lee C. What Women's Health Australia can tell us about women's well-being in the bush. , 2003; :

Women’s Health Australia (WHA) is a large-scale longitudinal project funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing to provide a population-wide evidence base for the development of appropriate policy and practice in women’s health. It consists of a 20-year longitudinal survey of the health of Australia’s women, with a strong emphasis on the needs of women in rural and remote areas. The survey began in 1996 and the research team are currently collecting our third wave of data from women across Australia.The project involves three cohorts of women, randomly selected from the Medicare database, to represent young (aged 18-23 in 1996), mid-age (45-50), and older women (70-75). Over sampling of women in rural and remote areas allows an examination of geographical variations in health and in access to health care. More than 41,000 women responded to mailed baseline surveys in 1996, and over 50% have also agreed to linkage with their Medicare data. Women participating in the survey complete a “main” survey every three years, addressing aspects of their physical and mental health, use of health services, health-related behaviour, sociodempgraphics, time use, and major life events. They may also be invited to participate in smaller targeted substudies that address particular diseases such as diabetes or life experiences such as partner violence.This paper provides an overview of the project, and then goes on to present descriptive data on measures of mental health and coping in all three age cohorts. A consistent pattern emerges, showing that older women have the best mental health and younger women the worst, but that rural women have equivalent levels of mental health to city women. This effect is despite evidence that rural women have proper access to a range of services than their city counterparts. The older rural women report high levels of neighbourhood satisfaction and access to social and practical support, but the mid-age and younger rural women do not appear to have these community advantages over urban women. The data suggest that strategies to support and maintain a sense of community in rural areas are essential to the continued maintenance of good emotional health among women in the bush.