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UK Insights

How healthy are women in the UK?

Kathy Annunziata

Vice President

Health 01.11.2018 / 09:00

older women healthy

How do UK women compare with men, and with their global counterparts, when it comes to mental and physical health and wellbeing?

As part of our #WhatWomenWant? initiative, we take a look at some of the stats around health and wellness that form the context for women in the UK today.

Research from Kantar Health’s National Health and Wellness Survey 2018 found that, in the UK, 25.7% of the population have self-reported depression: 28.27% of women and 23.14% of men. Looking at adult women in the four other EU countries in the study – France, Germany, Italy and Spain (4EU) – the numbers are far lower.



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Women in the UK are more likely than men to self-report depression or anxiety, and the percentage of women experiencing depression (28%) or anxiety (43%) has increased over the last ten years. Moreover, anxiety and depression rates are highest among younger women, and female homemakers report comparable levels of anxiety to those in the workforce.

37.21% of 18-to-34-year-old UK women have self-reported depression in the last 12 months. For men this age the figure is 25.97%, although there are an additional 17.97% of UK men of this age who have symptoms of depression but do not self-report it.

Meanwhile, an additional 7% of UK women do not report depression but do show moderate to severe symptoms of depression. In the 18-34 age range, this percentage shoots up to 11.66%.

Does working negatively affect mental health?

Amongst UK women aged 18 to 23, whether they work full-time or not, rates of self-reported anxiety and depression are pretty similar (68.6% for those in full-time employment versus 66.7% of those not working full time have self-reported anxiety or depression in the last 12 months).

However, when it comes to older generations there is more self-reported anxiety or depression for those womennotin full-time employment. From those aged 24 to 41, 48.1% of those working have experienced anxiety or depression in the last 12 months; this increases to 60.1% amongst those not working. The numbers are 47% vs 55.6% for those aged 42 to 52.



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This perhaps makes more sense in the context of Kantar Public research* that found that responsibility for domestic labour is still heavily skewed towards women. Among couples, women are more likely than men to mostly do the grocery shopping (49% of women, 15% of men), the cooking (61% of women, 17% of men) and the cleaning (59% of women, 12% of men). On average, women report spending 12 hours a week on housework compared with 6 for men. Men are only more likely than women to do gardening & DIY, when it comes to household tasks.

Looking at global data, it’s clear that the UK has pretty high rates of (self-reported) depression amongst adult women – for the 4EU (Germany, France, Italy and Spain) the average rate is 14.75%.

Kantar Public data underscores the Kantar Health finding. In the Understanding Society wave 7 research conducted by Kantar Public on behalf of the Institute for Social and Economic Research, it was found that:

  • Women are less likely to report feeling calm and peaceful than men – 52% of women said they had felt this way all/most of the time in the last four weeks compared with 63% of men
  • 45% of men reported feeling downhearted and depressednoneof the time in the last four weeks, this was only 38% for women
  • 49% of men reported feeling having a lot of energy all/most of the time in the last four weeks, this was only 40% for women.

Scoring health and wellness

In an index that takes all of the collected information around mental health together, Kantar Health finds that the average mental quality of life score for UK women is 45.77, compared to 47.24 for men. It’s interesting to see how this score changes for different age groups, however. Women aged 18-34 have an average score of 41.42 while women aged 65 and over have an average score of 46.31. What this means is that, based on the questions that make up this validated scale of mental wellness and quality of life in terms of mental health, older women are ‘healthier’ than younger women.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, when it comes to physical health the trends are reversed. Again, based on Kantar Health’s validated scale for assessing overall physical health, the average score for women is 49.96. It is 53.61 for those aged 18 to 34 but just 46.31 for those aged 65 and over. For men the average physical health quality of life score is almost identical at 49.97, with a similar trend when it comes to age groups.

When we look at various health trends, it’s interesting to also compare UK women with women from other nations. For example, 23.03% of UK women (21.97% of UK men) have a BMI of 30 or more (that is, are obese). The percentage is just 15.54% for those aged 18-34; the highest level is 26.62% for those aged 45 to 64. Meanwhile, the average across the four other EU countries in the study – Germany, France, Italy and Spain – is just 16.36% (10.04% of those aged 18 to 34).



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They may be heavier on average, but one unhealthy habit they don’t really have is smoking. Just 15.12% of UK women smoke – less than men, at 20.70%. Numbers are lowest amongst those aged 65 and over (10.83%). In the 4EU numbers are far higher – 25.51% overall; a staggering 31.96% amongst the 45-64 age group.

Interestingly, the statement ‘I am willing to make any lifestyle changes necessary to avoid having to take a prescription medication’ is agreed with significantly more by UK adult women (64.03% agreed) than by UK men (56.13%) and 4EU women (53.35%). They really don’t want to be taking medicine. It’s no surprise then that 37.27% of UK adult women say ‘I prefer to treat myself with an over-the-counter medication, than to depend on a doctor to give me a prescription medication’ vs 31.65% of men. The % amongst EU women is just 17.02%.

UK women are also less likely to think highly of their doctor. While 50.91% of UK adult men say ‘I feel that my doctor is very attentive to my needs and concerns’, only 48.99% of UK adult women agree – while 59.59% of their EU counterparts agree.

Source : Kantar Health, Kantar Public

Editor's Notes

Come along to our exhibition celebrating the last 100 years of marketing to women, What Women Want?

Which products, campaigns and adverts were considered empowering to women at each point in history? As we mark the centenary of the first women being granted the vote in the UK, what can brands learn from these standout examples? 

This is an ambitious Kantar UK initiative that is open to all from 21 - 29 November in London. Find out more at https://www.whatwomenwant.uk.com/

 

*Understanding Society wave 6 conducted by Kantar Public on behalf of the Institute for Social and Economic Research. 

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