Published Papers - Abstract 38

Lee C. Health habits and psychological functioning among young, middle-aged and older Australian women. British Journal of Health Psychology, 1999; 4: 301-314

Objectives: To assess health habits, and their relationship with psychological well-being among Australian women; in particular to examine the relationship between health habits and the Women's Health Questionnaire (WHQ; Hunter, 1992).Design: A cross-sectional postal survey of women in three age groups was carried out.Methods: Questionnaire responses from a representative sample of 612 women from three age groups (18-23, 45-50, and 70-75) were analysed. Data included the WHQ, 12-item General Health Questionnaire, Medical Outcomes Study SF-12, and self-reports of smoking, height and weight, alcohol use, and exercise status.Results: Young women had the highest rates of smoking and drinking, and were most likely to be underweight, while middle-aged and older women were most likely to be overweight or obese. Psychological distress was highest in the youngest group; the middle-aged were most likely to report vasomotor symptoms and difficulties with memory and concentration, and the older women difficulty sleeping. Health habits were related to psychological well-being; smoking, unhealthy body weight, and lack of exercise were most closely related to the depression subscale of the WHQ.Conclusions: Young adulthood appears the time of greatest distress for women. Distress, particularly depression, is associated with behaviours which predispose to later disease, suggesting that psychological interventions with young women may be particularly important for long-term physical health. The WHQ appears a useful measure of well-being and a good predictor of health-related behaviour across a range of ages.