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Opening up about female health and well-being

You don’t have to be an expert to talk about your health and well-being. We commonly discuss colds and broken bones but, as a nation, are we comfortable talking about more intimate issues?

Menstruation, sexual dysfunction, anxiety, postnatal depression, menopause, body dysmorphic disorder and mental health and well-being issues — are we brushing them under the rug simply because they can make for a deeper conversation?

Preventative nutrition and dietary supplements expert Pharma Nord knows women can keep their cards close to their chest when it comes to health and well-being. The company’s latest project looked to create an honest picture of female health in the UK, collecting responses from over 200 women across the country.

Women aged 16 and over were asked to answer questions about their general and physical health, well-being and mental health, sexual and reproductive health, and childbirth and pregnancy.

The data gathered presents a clearer picture of what is impacting female well-being in the UK, with the aim of opening the channels of conversation.

Mental health

Managing mental health is one of the most successful ways to ensure good well-being.

The Mental Health Foundation reports that a quarter of Brits will have first-hand experience of a mental health illness in a typical year. As such, it is likely that we will come into contact with a mental health challenge during our lifetimes.

Whether this is a personal experience or a mental health problem of a loved one, we have a greater chance of overcoming and managing issues if we remove stigma and talk about the challenges openly.

The survey showed that depression is the most common condition for women. Out of the women who had been diagnosed with a mental health condition, almost two thirds cited depression. Women between 45 and 54 are the most affected. This age group is more susceptible to panic and/or anxiety attacks too.

Women in the 18 to 25 age group are also at risk, making up over 23 per cent of women who have been affected by depression and anxiety issues.

The survey’s findings reflect previous studies which show that depression is more common in females. According to a study carried out by the National Institute For Clinical Excellence, one in four women will require treatment for depression at some point in their life, compared to one in 10 men.

As well as opening up about mental health issues, we may need to pay more attention to our daily nutrition. According to the Mental Health Foundation, recent research has suggested that our diets can impact on our mental health. With this in mind, maintaining a balanced diet and selecting the right dietary supplements is crucial to our overall well-being.

Personal Well-being

There’s a lot to be said for the pressure women put on themselves to look good. In the survey, 42 per cent said their body type or weight has affected their personal well-being, with the largest proportion aged between 25 and 34. Similarly, 30 per cent said that their appearance had affected their well-being.

More than half of respondents said that comparing themselves to other females had affected their health. Women aged between 25 and 34 were again the highest affected group, indicating increased insecurity within this age bracket.

Over one third of women who said their current or past employment had affected their well-being were aged between 25 and 34.

In the 55 to 64 age group, the death of a loved one was the primary cause for distress. Over a quarter of these women said a lack of sex drive had negative effects on their health too.

Sexual and reproductive health

Sexuality is an integral part of being human and it contributes greatly to an individual’s overall well-being.

Out of all respondents, 91 per cent identified as heterosexual, just over 3 per cent are homosexual and another 3 per cent class themselves as bisexual.

82 per cent of all women surveyed were sexually active. When asked if they had suffered any sexual dysfunction, the most common response was a loss of sex drive or desire. Over 30 per cent of women who had experienced this were aged 55 to 64, while 26 per cent were between 25 and 34. This indicates that reduced sex drive can affect anyone, regardless of age.

The second most common sexual dysfunction was dyspareunia — a condition caused by medical or psychological factors that makes sex painful due to vaginal dryness. Overall, it accounted for almost 42 per cent of answers and was most common with women aged 45–54 and 55-64. These age ranges accounted for over 50 per cent of the women who said they have suffered with the condition.

The disorder proved to be more common in women who had gone through or were showing signs of menopause. However, stress and medication for depression were also cited as causes.

Other conditions included vaginismus, which affects a woman’s ability to engage in any form of vaginal penetration due to involuntary muscle spasms. This accounted for nearly 10 per cent of sexual dysfunction in the women surveyed.

Sex addiction affected 5 per cent of respondents, and a sudden inability to reach orgasm despite no prior problems had been experienced by almost 18 per cent of the women who took part.

It’s clear to see that many women face challenges with their sex lives. Annalaura Dallavalle, Product Manager at Pharma Nord says:

“It’s evident that women are facing problems with arousal, lack of desire and discomfort during sex. While well-being and mental health factors can significantly affect desire, maturing life stages also play a part in the natural progression of our sex lives. Challenges such as vaginal dryness, for example, are particularly common during the menopause.

“There is a clear need for sexual challenges to be discussed more openly in order for them to be addressed. Natural solutions, like our Lady Prelox supplement, can help women enhance their sex lives by overcoming issues such as loss or lack of sex drive, difficulties reaching orgasm and pain or discomfort during sex.”

From mental health to sexual disorders, it’s clear that many aspects of female health should be more frequently discussed. Through raising awareness, it is hoped we can ease the pressures faced by women, creating a more open environment.

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Linda Parkinson-Hardman

Transformational coach and founder of the Hysterectomy Association. Professionally I'm an information scientist who specialises in the adoption and engagement of digital technologies. I am a writer and author of nine books to date, and I've edited a further seven; phew what a lot for a Thursday afternoon :-)

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