Women Strive To Take Care Of Everyone Except Themselves

Armen Hareyan's picture

The not-for-profit National Women's Health Resource Center's new third annual Women Talk survey has uncovered a newfound sense of self-empowerment in regard to women's health and their priorities. An overwhelming ninety-four percent of women state that "Making time for myself is one of the best ways I can help to take care of me and my family" and seventy-five percent of women went a step further to say that "Taking care of myself is my top priority."

"So often women are focused on taking care of others, so we found it surprising that three out of four women state that taking care of themselves is their number one priority," stated Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, RN, executive vice president of the NWHRC. "We're pleased to see that women are finally granting themselves permission to take care of their health first, so that they can better take care of their loved ones."

The survey, released today and conducted by Harris Interactive, is the third in a series of research by the NWHRC that explores women's attitudes and perceptions toward their health.

Attitudes Toward a Healthy Lifestyle

According to the survey, women believe living a healthy lifestyle is important and worthwhile. The survey provided women with a list of descriptive terms for living a healthy lifestyle and the majority of words chosen were positive rather than negative. Respondents describe living a health lifestyle as important (61%), worthwhile (59%), essential (44%) and even fun (23%). Very few women identified a healthy lifestyle as difficult (11%) or boring (2%).

The majority of women in the survey recognize that taking care of themselves is not just good for themselves, but beneficial to their families. Nearly all women (98%) agree with the statement "Living a healthy lifestyle is important both for my own health as well as the health of my family." Interestingly, African-American and Hispanic women are more likely than Caucasian women to recognize the impact they can have on their health and the health of their families, with the majority of African-American (57%) and Hispanic women (54%) strongly agreeing with the previous statement (verses 39% percent of Caucasian women).

Evaluation of Overall Health

On the whole, women in the survey rate their physical and mental health to be good to excellent. On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being "excellent" and 1 being "very poor," women rate their physical health a 7.3 and their mental health at an 8.5. However, older women rate their physical health on par with younger women and actually rate their mental health higher at a 9.1 verses 7.9 for women aged 18-39.

When asked what being healthy means to them, women most often state "not having any chronic diseases" (47%) and "being physically active" (43%). However, minority women are more likely to define good health differently. African-American and Hispanic women cite "being happy" as a key indicator of good health (43% each) verses thirty-three percent of Caucasian women. Additionally, spiritual well-being is of particular relevance to African-American women (44% verses 26% of Hispanic and 25% of Caucasian women).

Motivators and Barriers

Women in the survey believe that their health and lifestyle habits are very or somewhat healthy physically (72%), mentally (85%) and spiritually (70%). Older women, those 60 and over, are more likely to report very healthy habits regarding mental health than younger women (51% verses a range of 21%-38% among younger women).

Overall, women are motivated to lead a healthy lifestyle to feel good, be independent and look good. Majorities of women stated the following as motivators to good health:

-- Feel good (84%)

-- Increase energy levels (75%)

-- Prevent diseases (65%)

-- Maintain their lifestyle as they age (65%)


-- Be fit (63%)

-- Maintain their independence (63%)

-- Look good (63%)

-- Loose weight (57%)

-- Increase one's life span (57%)

-- Prevent disability (52%)

-- Be around for others who depend on them (50%)

According to the survey, older women are more motivated to maintain their lifestyle and independence, while younger women are motivated to be fit and look good.

Regardless of motivations, the survey also uncovers major barriers that exist for women to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The majority of women in the survey had set goals for themselves, yet most women are not achieving all or most of them. For instance, seventy-six percent of women have set a goal to exercise more, yet only forty-two percent have achieved all or most of that goal. Six in 10 women (61%) have set a goal to loose weight, yet only twenty-four percent have achieved all or most of their goal.

Lack of time is the most commonly mentioned hindrance to leading a healthy lifestyle according to forty-two percent of women in the survey. However, when it comes to barriers to helping families live a healthy lifestyle, the top obstacle cited is the lack of good food choices.

Health Behaviors

The survey also looked at a variety of healthy behaviors and measured women's participation, interest and the impact of these behaviors. Of the health habits listed, the majority of women were not actively engaged in most presented. For instance, while the majority of women read nutrition labels (56%), only thirty-eight percent limit their sugar intake or wear sunscreen, thirty-one percent are getting a good night's sleep, and only twenty-two percent avoid restaurants with unhealthy foods.

Women that are currently engaged in healthy behaviors cite exercise, at least 30 minutes of moderate activity at least three days a week, as having the biggest positive impact on their health. Women in the survey that report living a very healthy lifestyle in at least one dimension (physical, mental, spiritual) report better health, have a more positive outlook and are more likely to be achieving their goals.

One Small Step to a Healthier You

The Women Talk survey also reveals that the overwhelming majority of women agree (96%) that making small changes in their daily routines can be beneficial to their health. However, half of women (50%) also indicate they need a better understanding of the small steps they can take to improve their health.

To help women better understand how they can incorporate daily changes into their busy lives, the National Women's Health Resource Center today announced the One Small Step to a Healthier You campaign. As part of this program, NWHRC has launched a comprehensive online wellness center that seeks to provide women with the quick and simple ways they can take control of their health in order to see big results and feel better from a mind, body and spirit approach.

"With today's busy schedules, women are the ringmasters in a never-ending family circus," stated Ms. Battaglino Cahill. "We hope that our new campaign can give women the simple lifestyle tips they need to tame their chaotic days in a healthy, holistic and positive way."

The online Wellness Center includes tips and advice in the following areas:
-- Diet & Nutrition