Published Papers - Abstract 39

Byles J. Over the hill and picking up speed: Older women of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health. Australian Journal on Ageing, 1999; 18(3 Supp): 55-62

Objective: The aim of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health is to explore the physical, psychological, social and environmental factors that affect the health of women in Australia. In this paper, we identify key health issues for the 12,900 women in the oldest cohort of the study and highlight issues to be explored longitudinally. Method: Women aged 70-75 years registered with the Health Insurance Commission were sent a postal questionnaire (response rate 40%). The questionnaire included 260 items on health, health related behaviours and health care use, and social circumstances.Results: Despite the high proportion of women reporting chronic medical conditions and recent symptoms, only 4% of the women rated their health as poor. Scores on the SF-36 health-related quality of life measure indicate that while physical health scores were lowest for the older cohort, mental health scores were higher than for the youngest (18-23 years) and mid-age (45-50 years) cohort. In their comments, the older women emphasised the importance of their homes, social support and their active participation in their community as fundamental to their well-being. Conclusion: This analysis highlights areas for follow-up in the longitudinal study, importantly the older women in the study do not equate disease with poor health and a broader social view of health is justified.