Source: The Mercury, 13 January, 1998, p.8


Stressed
young
women
take risks

By KIM SWEETMAN

   MANY young women are 
doing things that are bad 
for them but believe they 
can beat the risks, 
researchers engaged in the 
biggest study of Australian 
women's health said 
yesterday.

   Binge drinking, smoking, 
crash dieting and unsafe sex 
were on the rise among young 
women Women's Health 
Australia has initially found.

   The unhealthy activity was a 
reaction to stress caused mainly 
by money, career and study 
worries.

   Project manager Wendy Brown 
admitted yesterday to being 
shocked by the first findings of 
the study, which began last 
year and will track 42,000 
Australian women for the next 
19 years to uncover hidden 
health trends.

   Dr Brown said significant 
numbers of women aged 18 to 
23 appeared to have abandoned 
notions of healthy living in 
the face of increasingly 
complicated, stressful 
lifestyles.

   The study has already revealed 
that a third of young women are 
underweight, and that fewer 
than 2% are happy with their 
bodies.

   Almost one in five binge 
drinks at least once a week and 
40% do little or no exercise.

   Only one quarter use condoms 
regularly and one third smoke.

   About half the 18 to 23-year- 
olds admitted to being stressed.

   "We thought the younger ones 
would say they worried about 
personal relationships, but 
they actually listed work, 
money and studies as their big 
problems," Dr Brown said.

   "It's going to be very 
interesting over the years to 
see whether these women ever 
lose that stress or whether we 
are going to see a range of new 
female illnesses caused by a 
lifetime of stress."

   Younger women are far more 
stressed than their mothers and 
grandmothers. Women aged 45 
to 59 and those older than 70 
reported relatively low stress 
levels.

   Dr Brown said it appeared high 
numbers of younger women 
were doing things they knew 
were unhealthy but had 
convinced themselves they 
could beat the risks.

   Dr Brown said the finding that 
frightened her most was the 
incidence of smoking among 
young mothers.

   "We've found 42.4% of young 
married mothers are smoking 
and 54.1% of single mothers 
have the habit," she said.

   "That is a real concern. I'm 
certainly not trying to put any 
sort of blame on single 
mothers because it may be that 
stress drives them to smoke, 
but it raises some terrible 
health concerns."


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