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New Survey Challenges the Theory that Women Strive to Take Care of Everyone Except Themselves

National Women's Health Resource Center's Annual WOMEN TALK Survey Reveals Women Have Positive Attitudes Toward a Healthy Lifestyle, But Want a Better Understanding of Small Steps to Improve Health

Red Bank, NJ - The not-for-profit National Women's Health Resource Center's (NWHRC) new third annual Women Talk survey has uncovered a newfound sense of self-empowerment in regard to women's health and their priorities. An overwhelming ninety-four percent of women state that "Making time for myself is one of the best ways I can help to take care of me and my family" and seventy-five percent of women went a step further to say that "Taking care of myself is my top priority."

"So often women are focused on taking care of others, so we found it surprising that three out of four women state that taking care of themselves is their number one priority," stated Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, RN, executive vice president of the NWHRC. "We're pleased to see that women are finally granting themselves permission to take care of their health first, so that they can better take care of their loved ones."

The survey, released today and conducted by Harris Interactive, is the third in a series of research by the NWHRC that explores women's attitudes and perceptions toward their health.

Attitudes Toward a Healthy Lifestyle

According to the survey, women believe living a healthy lifestyle is important and worthwhile. The survey provided women with a list of descriptive terms for living a healthy lifestyle and the majority of words chosen were positive rather than negative. Respondents describe living a health lifestyle as important (61%), worthwhile (59%), essential (44%) and even fun (23%). Very few women identified a healthy lifestyle as difficult (11%) or boring (2%).

The majority of women in the survey recognize that taking care of themselves is not just good for themselves, but beneficial to their families. Nearly all women (98%) agree with the statement "Living a healthy lifestyle is important both for my own health as well as the health of my family." Interestingly, African-American and Hispanic women are more likely than Caucasian women to recognize the impact they can have on their health and the health of their families, with the majority (57%) of African-American (57%) and Hispanic women (54%) strongly agreeing with the previous statement (verses 39% percent of Caucasian women). For more information on the minority data, click here. 

Evaluation of Overall Health

On the whole, women in the survey rate their physical and mental health to be good to excellent. On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being "excellent" and 1 being "very poor," women rate their physical health a 7.3 and their mental health at an 8.5. However, older women rate their physical health on par with younger women and actually rate their mental health higher at a 9.1 verses 7.9 for women aged 18-39.

When asked what being healthy means to them, women most often state "not having any chronic diseases" (47%) and "being physically active" (43%). However, minority women are more likely to define good health differently. African-American and Hispanic women cite "being happy" as a key indicator of good health (43% each) verses thirty-three percent of Caucasian women. Additionally, spiritual well-being is of particular relevance to African-American women (44% verses 26% of Hispanic and 25% of Caucasian women).

Motivators and Barriers

Women in the survey believe that their health and lifestyle habits are very or somewhat healthy physically (72%), mentally (85%) and spiritually (70%). Older women, those 60 and over, are more likely to report very health habits regarding mental health than younger women (51% verses a range of 21%-38% among younger women).

Overall, women are motivated to lead a healthy lifestyle to feel good, be independent and look good. Majorities of women stated the following as motivators to good health:

  • Feel good (84%)
  • Increase energy levels (75%)
  • Prevent diseases (65%)
  • Maintain their lifestyle as they age (65%)
  • Be fit (63%)
  • Maintain their independence (63%)
  • Look good (63%)
  • Loose weight (57%)
  • Increase one's life span (57%)
  • Prevent disability (52%)
  • Be around for others who depend on them (50%)

According to the survey, older women are more motivated to maintain their lifestyle and independence, while younger women are motivated to be fit and look good.

Regardless of motivations, the survey also uncovers major barriers that exist for women to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The majority of women in the survey had set goals for themselves, yet most women are not achieving all or most of them. For instance, seventy-six percent of women have set a goal to exercise more, yet only forty-two percent have achieved all or most of that goal. Six in 10 women (61%) have set a goal to loose weight, yet only twenty-four percent have achieved all or most of their goal.

Lack of time is the most commonly mentioned hindrance to leading a healthy lifestyle according to forty-two percent of women in the survey. However, when it comes to barriers to helping families live a healthy lifestyle, the top obstacle cited is the lack of good food choices.

Health Behaviors

The survey also looked at a variety of healthy behaviors and measured women's participation, interest and the impact of these behaviors. Of the health habits listed, the majority of women were not actively engaged in most presented. For instance, while the majority of women read nutrition labels (56%), only thirty-eight percent limit their sugar intake or wear sunscreen, thirty-one percent are getting a good night's sleep, and only twenty-two percent avoid restaurants with unhealthy foods.

Women that are currently engaged in healthy behaviors cite exercise, at least 30 minutes of moderate activity at least three days a week, as having the biggest positive impact on their health. Women in the survey that report living a very healthy lifestyle in at least one dimension (physical, mental, spiritual) report better health, have a more positive outlook and are more likely to be achieving their goals.

One Small Step to a Healthier You

The Women Talk survey also reveals that the overwhelming majority of women agree (96%) that making small changes in their daily routines can be beneficial to their health. However, half of women (50%) also indicate they need a better understanding of the small steps they can take to improve their health.

To help women better understand how they can incorporate daily changes into their busy lives, the National Women's Health Resource Center today announced the One Small Step to a Healthier You campaign. As part of this program, NWHRC has launched a comprehensive online wellness center that seeks to provide women with the quick and simple ways they can take control of their health in order to see big results and feel better from a mind, body and spirit approach.

"With today's busy schedules, women are the ringmasters in a never-ending family circus," stated Ms. Battaglino Cahill. "We hope that our new campaign can give women the simple lifestyle tips they need to tame their chaotic days in a healthy, holistic and positive way."

The online Wellness Center includes tips and advice in the following areas:

  • Diet & Nutrition

    • Small Step: Don't pass the salt
      Did you know that too much sodium can raise your blood pressure and contribute to developing or worsening hypertension, the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease?
  • Fitness

    • Small Step: Get moving
      The beauty of physical activity is that little bits add up to big benefits. Try adding activity into each day little by little. Unsure where to start? Keep it simple. For instance, carry your groceries into the house one bag at a time.
  • Emotional Wellbeing

    • Small Step: Laugh away stress
      Laughter is a great stress reliever, but the benefits don't end there. Laughter can also strengthen the immune system, lessen food cravings and help you heal more quickly.
  • Beauty and Anti-Aging

    • Skip the sunscreen...sometimes
      It may sound sacrilegious but skipping sunscreen for brief periods of time can be good for you. How? Sunshine stimulates your skin to synthesize vitamin D, which may help ward off osteoporosis and other diseases, including certain common cancers.
  • Alternative Medicine

    • Small Step: Throw your own tea party
      Instead of drinking your morning caffè latte or other coffee concoction, indulge in an aromatic cup of tea. Tea, particularly green tea, is an excellent source of antioxidants called polyphenol, which may be why one Arizona study found that the more hot tea people drank (particularly tea with lemon) the less likely they were to develop squamous cell skin cancer.
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About the Survey

The Women Talk survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the National Women's Health Resource Center between April 12 and April 20, 2007 among 1,126 women, aged 18 and older of whom 189 are African American, 166 are Hispanic and 719 are Caucasian. The 1,126 includes an over sample of Hispanic and African American women. Results were weighted as needed for age, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.


The not-for-profit National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC) is the leading independent health information source for women. NWHRC develops and distributes up-to-date and objective women's health information based on the latest advances in medical research and practice. NWHRC believes all women should have access to the most trusted and reliable health information. Information empowers women to make the best decisions to maintain and improve their health and the health of their families.

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