“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” the World Health Organization states.
Inextricably linked to our wellbeing is our financial health too.
Here’s a snapshot of the biggest health problems facing women face, and how best to safeguard against them.
Physical health problems
Government figures suggest more than half (56 per cent) of women live with at least one chronic health condition – heart disease and back problems among the most prevalent.
In 2022, an estimated 73,200 new cancer diagnoses among women were made.
Treatment costs for chronic conditions can be debilitating. Breast Cancer Network Australia found a quarter of cancer patients face medical bills in excess of $17,200. And that’s before considering lost income and other expenses such as special diets, supplements, travel to medical appointments, childcare during treatments, rehabilitation expenses and more.
Prevention is better than cure. A little time and money invested daily now may help avoid devastation later, including:
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, good diet, and regular exercise
- Reducing your exposure to known carcinogens (e.g. smoking, toxic cleaning chemicals, processed foods)
- Being proactive with health screenings and check-ups.
However, it pays to have a back-up plan. Consider health and income protection insurances, and dual incomes so not all your eggs are in one basket. An emergency fund is also a must.
According to Beyond Blue, anxiety affects one in three Australian women, while depression occurs in one in six. Meanwhile, PTSD and eating disorders are more common in women than men.
The effects of mental illness can be severe and pervasive, contributing to physical health conditions, drug and alcohol addiction, poorer financial decisions and on-the-job performance, increased risk-taking, and relationship breakdowns.
Financial costs can be devastating – from withheld promotions at work and impulsive spending to job loss, divorce, and runaway debts.
Again, prevention is better than cure. Safeguards include:
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
- Avoiding known triggers
- Participating in regular social engagement with family and friends
- Making time for hobbies and stress outlets
- Being proactive with early intervention and treatment when illness arises
- Practising gratitude and mindfulness.
Additionally, knowledge is power. Read, learn, recognise negative thought patterns, and practise coping strategies. But take your lead from reputable, qualified professionals – not influencers and self-titled ‘experts’.
Poor financial health
Meanwhile, women statistically outlive men by 4.1 years, meaning less finances to cover more years of life.
Furthermore, research by the University of Western Australia from 2020 found “women, on average, [are] less financially literate than men”, whereby “63 per cent of men and 48 per cent of women demonstrate an understanding of at least three basic financial literacy concepts”.
These differences impact women in numerous ways, from their career choices and standard of living to their quality of retirement and even personal safety.
Women aged 55 and older are the new face of homelessness, often because they had no financial protections after divorce or the death of a partner. Furthermore, poverty – or the threat of it – traps many women in abusive relationships.
Financial independence and being proactive lie at the heart of good financial health. Achieving this includes:
- Avoiding sexually transmitted debt – making decisions based on merit, not emotion
- Practising good communication about money matters
- Making financial decisions jointly
- Maintaining a solid savings and investment plan (including a budget)
- Implementing financial protections (e.g. emergency fund, insurances, contingency plans)
- Ensuring your and your partner’s estate planning is up to date, such as wills, nominated super beneficiaries, guardianships etc.
Getting tailored tax and financial advice from qualified professionals.
A unified approach
Most preventative strategies deliver benefits across physical, mental, and financial health.
For example, regular exercise not only improves cardiovascular and joint health, but promotes mental health and improves cognitive functioning for making decisions.
Likewise, effective money management reduces stress that impacts physical and mental health and strains relationships.
So, given that maintaining good health pays dividends in many ways – now and into the future – can you really afford not to invest in yourself?