Majority of U.S. Women Struggle to Prioritize Health

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Women in the U.S. — particularly younger women — are finding it tough to make their own health a top priority.

More than six in 10 U.S. women (63%) say it is hard for them to do this. Majorities cite feeling overwhelmed, their mental or emotional health, caring for others before themselves, and work as the top barriers getting in the way.

These findings are from a Hologic-Gallup survey of the state of women’s health conducted April 8-16, 2024, with 4,001 adult women across the U.S. via web using the probability-based Gallup Panel.

Prioritizing Health Hardest for Young Women

Women in Generation Z (74%), the millennial generation (70%) and Generation X (68%) who are between the ages of 18 and 59 are significantly more likely than baby boomers (52%) and those in the Silent Generation (39%) to report that it is hard for them to prioritize their health.

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Women with children younger than 18 living in their household are also much more likely than those without children in the home to say it is hard to make their health a top priority. These data suggest that in addition to having more limited time and resources, women caring for children are putting the needs of those they care for before their own health.

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Among women who say it is hard to make their health a top priority, the most common barrier they cite is feeling too overwhelmed (72%). In addition, more than half of women who struggle to prioritize their health mention their mental or emotional health, caring for other family members first, not having enough time and work getting in the way.

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Younger Women Feel Overwhelmed, Face Time, Money and Work Challenges

Younger generations of adult women in the U.S. are much more likely than baby boomers and the Silent Generation to agree it feels too overwhelming to make their health a top priority.

Adult Gen Zers and millennials are more likely than their older counterparts to report that they don’t have enough time, they don’t have enough money and their work gets in the way as challenges preventing them from making their health a top priority.

Women in the two youngest generations are also at least 10 percentage points more likely to say that they don’t have enough information or guidance from healthcare professionals.

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Women Caring for Children Prioritize Others Before Their Own Health

Women with children younger than 18 living in their household are twice as likely as those without children living with them to report that caring for other family members first is a barrier to making their health a top priority. Nearly nine in 10 U.S. women with children under 18 at home cite this as the top barrier.

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Women with children under 18 in the household are also more likely than women without to report that not having enough time (67% versus 48%, respectively) and money (55% versus 44%, respectively) get in the way of making their health a top priority.

The Double Impact of Mental and Emotional Health on Young Women

When it comes to their health priorities, women most frequently cite their mental and emotional health as a high priority. Half of women in the U.S. say their mental and emotional health is their top concern, followed by sleep (47%), weight (40%), nutrition/diet (37%) and chronic conditions (35%).

Adult women who are members of Generation Z, the millennial generation and Generation X are slightly more likely than older generations to say they prioritize their mental health.

Although many women are aiming to make their mental health a high priority, previous Gallup research shows that this group experiences worse mental and emotional wellbeing than men and older Americans. Suffering from poor mental and emotional health on their own negatively affects women’s lives. The Hologic-Gallup study finds that mental health issues are also preventing women from taking care of their health broadly, with 60% saying it is a barrier to making their health a top priority.

This barrier is most common among the youngest U.S. women. More than eight in 10 women in Generation Z (aged 18-26) say their mental and emotional health gets in the way of making their health a top priority. This drops to about seven in 10 millennial women, and even further to 57% of Generation X women, 44% of baby boomer and 29% of Silent Generation women.

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If women highly prioritize their mental and emotional health, why does it continue to be a barrier to their overall wellbeing? One possibility is access to quality mental healthcare. Previous Gallup polling shows that many Americans feel mental health issues are not treated as well as physical health issues in the U.S. medical system today. Younger Americans in particular were more likely to report that the affordability of and difficulty finding mental healthcare providers has prevented them from seeking treatment they need.

Implications

Women who are struggling to prioritize their health face a number of barriers. Feeling overwhelmed by it is the top obstacle, but their mental and emotional health, caring for others, not having enough time, and work are also getting in the way. Women with children at home are more likely to see these as barriers than those who don’t have children at home.

In addition to struggling to prioritize their health, many women in the study do not believe their elected officials are prioritizing women’s health. Nearly half (46%) say issues related to women’s health are “not a priority at all” among U.S. elected officials today.

Women facing barriers to prioritizing their health while they are young could suffer from significant long-term effects. Taking care of one’s health early can be key to ensuring stable health and wellbeing later in life.

For additional findings from the Hologic-Gallup survey, see: “The Screening Action Gap: Why U.S. Women Miss Critical Health Screenings.”

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