Policy report

Policy briefs from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health

Report prepared for the Australian government Department of Health
Women's health Mental health Sexual health Reproductive health Nutrition Physical activity Public health Australia

The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) is a longitudinal populationbased survey examining the health of over 57,000 Australian women. The study comprises four cohorts of women: three cohorts (born in 1921-26, 1946-51, 1973-78) have been repeatedly surveyed since 1996, and a new cohort (born in 1989-95) was first surveyed in 2013. Survey data are linked to Medicare (MBS) and Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme data (PBS), cancer registry, perinatal, aged care, and hospital inpatient datasets. Death data are obtained from the National Death Index. Information from ALSWH is widely used to assess health status of women in Australia and to investigate factors across life that affect health, wellbeing and the use of health services at different life stages.

This major report, the latest in a series for the Department of Health, provides policy briefs on major topics for women’s health and wellbeing. It draws on an array of ALSWH research work undertaken over the past decade that has been published with peer review and that provides sufficient evidence to warrant a series of policy recommendations.

The topics of the policy briefs cluster into groups: Mental health and Violence and abuse; then Sexual health, Reproductive health, and Pregnancy and maternal health; those related to lifestyle and health behaviours - Weight and weight gain, Nutrition, Physical activity and sedentary behaviour; and lastly Chronic conditions and Housing and care for older women.

In overviewing these topics, it is important to emphasise the many common risk factors and overlapping effects of the issues covered. For instance, violence and abuse are associated with poor mental health; postnatal depression is a key issue for reproductive health and is closely linked with a prior history of depression; obesity has adverse implications for pregnancy complications and chronic diseases, such as diabetes; and there are strong connections between physical and mental health. It is also important to emphasise the common social determinants of many of these health needs and outcomes.

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