The anxiety epidemic affecting Kiwi women

by NEXT magazine / 20 April, 2017
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New Zealand women have always had a lot of stress in their lives, but in the digital age it's getting worse.
Kiwi women are popping pills to deal with stress and anxiety at an alarming rate – and experts fear the situation is only going to get worse.
The NEXT Report revealed almost one in three women have taken medication to manage mental health issues, with that figure rising to 36 per cent among those aged 50 and over. A massive 72 per cent believe they’re at greater risk of burnout than ever before.

These figures come as no surprise to those working in mental health, who say the problem has been spiralling out of control for some years, with no sign of slowing down.

Shaun Robinson, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, points out that almost half of New Zealand’s adult population will be diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime, and the number of medications to treat them has been skyrocketing for more than a decade.

“For women, the likelihood increases,” he adds, pointing to statistics showing they’re up to 40 per cent more likely than men to be diagnosed with a mental disorder.

“Women have long had that difficult balance between the benefits of a career, the necessity of having a second income and often the other job of being the primary child-rearer.

"With pressures mounting in the workplace – particularly with the advent of digital technology and the expectation of availability 24/7 – as well as the demands of home life and social conditions such as entrenched poverty and the housing situation, it’s easy to see why women are under a lot of pressure.”

The New Zealand Health Survey 2015/16 backs up this concerning picture. It explored the number of Kiwis who had experienced psychological distress in the previous four weeks alone: nearly one in 10 women admitted they had, compared to 5 per cent of men. The overall total of almost 7 per cent of people experiencing distress was a rise from 4.5 per cent of the population in 2011/12.

Not surprisingly, substantial shocks – such as an earthquake – exacerbate the problem. While 32 per cent of women nationwide have taken medication for stress, anxiety or depression, that figure rises to 34 per cent in Canterbury and 35 per cent in the South Island as a whole. It falls in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions, dropping to 28 per cent.

“You add in something like a significant natural disaster, and there’s a clear correlation between that and increased levels of anxiety and depression.”

The Mental Health Foundation's 5 steps to better mental health

MOVE Physical activity stimulates positive feelings and emotions.

CONNECT A breadth and depth of personal relationships is a fundamental human need that’s critical to mental wellbeing.

LEARN Keeping the mind active and inquisitive creates a sense of competency and purpose.

NOTICE Mindfulness and appreciating the little things heightens self-knowledge and has been shown to improve wellbeing.

GIVE The process of giving others your time, effort and emotional support is strongly linked with positive feelings and functioning.

Conducted every four years, the NEXT Report surveys more than 1000 Kiwi women on issues from parenthood and money to equality. 

This article was originally published by NEXT

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