New White House Report Describes Overall Health Status of American Women

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Overall good health is tied to exercise and diet. So how do women, who often take the lead in caregiving for family and friends, do concerning their own health? It turns out that we still have a lot of room for improvement, according to a new White House report, Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being.  “The health of U.S. women has been improving according to some metrics, but progress across measures is not uniform and some declines can be seen,” the report’s authors wrote. “Moreover, women are more likely than men to face certain health problems, such as mobility restrictions and chronic medical conditions.”

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    This report is the first comprehensive federal study on women since 1963 and statistically describes how women in the United States are faring and how their lives have changed in five areas: people, families and income; education; employment; health; and crime and violence.  “The health status of the U.S. population has generally improved over the decades, although measuring this change is challenging because health has multiple dimensions,” the authors of the report’s section on health stated. “‘Health’ includes pathologies that define different disease states or impairments, the environmental, social, and behavioral characteristics that affect our chances of developing diseases or experiencing injuries, and the effects that disease and injury have on our ability to function and to fully participate in society. In addition, access to and use of health care affect outcomes through both prevention and treatment.”

    The report noted that American women need to do a better job of scheduling regular exercise. Only 43 percent of women age 25 and older met the Federal guidelines for aerobic physical activity (although this percentage is higher than the 2000 findings of 38 percent). The percentage of women who met the physical activity guidelines decreases with age. For instance, almost 50 percent of women age 18-44 met these guidelines as compared to 19 percent of women age 75 and older. And education level seems to make a difference in women’s exercise rates. About a quarter of women with less than a high school education met the guidelines, compared to 51 percent of women who have some college education.

    American women also are having issues with obesity. Black women (50 percent) and Hispanic women (43 percent) were more likely to be obese than White women (33 percent). About 7 percent of women are severely obese. Additionally more Black women (14 percent) were severely obese, as compared to Hispanic women (7 percent) and White women (6 percent). And it turns out that middle age plays a factor since women between the ages of 40 and 59 are slightly more likely to be obese than their younger and older counterparts. However, there is a bright side: While the prevalence of obesity among women increased by 10 percent (from 25 percent to 35 percent) from 1988-1994 and 1999-2000, this figure did not change significantly between 1999-2000 and 2007-2008.

  • And one of the simplest forms of exercise is a struggle for many American women. Researchers found that women are 40 percent more likely than men to report that they are having difficulty in walking. “Difficulty walking is an important general health indicator since it can result from a wide range of health conditions (including arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions, heart disease, pulmonary conditions, neurological conditions, and sensory limitations such as poor sight) and can affect an individual’s ability to fully take part in all aspects of life,” the report stated. Thirteen percent of women (as opposed to 9 percent of men) said they were having some difficulty walking a quarter of a mile. Study results indicate that difficulty in walking increases with age. While less than 5 percent of women ages 18-44 reported difficulty, more than 10 percent of women age 45-54 had issues. This percentage jumped to almost 20 percent for women age 55-64, 25% for those age 65-74, and 45 percent for those age 75 and older. Eighteen percent of Black women reported more difficulty in walking, compared to 12 percent of White women and 11 percent of Hispanic women.

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Published On: March 08, 2011