Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 - Regional Conference for Geriatrics and Gerontology
Many older women surveyed in an across Australian study on women’s health are living with multiple health conditions and increasing levels of disability.

According to Professor Julie Byles, Director, Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing at Newcastle University, she fears that the situation may be substantially worse when today's younger women (born in 1973-78 and 1946-51) age, mostly because of the growing problem of obesity and smoking.

Professor Byles will talk about the impact of lifestyle on women ageing well in Australia at the International Ageing Conference in Melbourne today at 2pm at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Drawing from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, which has repeatedly surveyed more than 40,000 women since 1996, this report focuses on changes in the health of women born between 1921 and 1926. The findings show that most women from this cohort in the study were living with multiple conditions and increasing levels of disability, and that arthritis is a particularly common condition affecting most women in the study, leading to poor quality of life, pain and increased use of health care services.

“For 65 year olds and above, heart disease is the leading cause of death and disability, followed by type 2 diabetes and breast cancer,” says Professor Byles.

While she warns that extrapolation from one age group to the next is hazardous, she fears that today’s young women who smoke and who are overweight will suffer from higher levels of illness and disability than former generations.

“Ageing well needs healthy inputs throughout life and requires starting early. The study findings also show clear trends according to women's education levels, body weight, and past and current smoking,” she says.

Professor Byles said that while cigarette smoking was uncommon among women born in 1921-26, it has shortened the life expectancy of smokers as well as increasing their risk of respiratory and other chronic conditions.

There is good evidence that quitting smoking reduces risk of some conditions like heart disease quite quickly but other risks, like lung cancer, more slowly,” she says.

“For children and teenagers, the emphasis should be on never smoking.”

The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, is a collaboration between the University of Newcastle and University of Queensland study, and is funded by the Australian Government through the Department of Health and Ageing. Researchers based in Newcastle work in collaboration with HMRI - a partnership between Hunter New England Health, the University of Newcastle and the community

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Penny Underwood

P: 03 9818 8540
M: 040 99 252 99
W: www.aging2011.com

Keywords

Ageing conference, Professor Julie Byles, Melburne, women, health

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