Cover Women's Health Survey

There’s a lot of work to be done to improve women’s health, according to new research

Women from across the world have experienced worsened health conditions, according to Hologic’s 2021 Global Women’s Health Index.

The survey, which was conducted by Gallup and medical technology company, Hologic, first began in 2020 to measure women’s health worldwide. The score is measured based on fifteen questions covering various aspects of women’s health including preventive care, emotional health, opinions of health and safety in their city, basic needs such as housing and food, and individual health.

The high-scorers

After receiving nearly 127,000 responses, the overall Global Women’s Health Index score was measured at 53 out of 100, one point lower than the previous year. Out of the 122 countries or territories measured, Taiwan led with the highest overall index score at 70 points. This was followed by Latvia, Austria, Denmark and Estonia.

Taiwan and Kazakhstan scored highest on emotional health, indicating that the women in those two places have the lowest anger, worry and stress compared to the rest of the world.

Singapore led in multiple aspects, including in opinions of health and safety, meaning women feel safe and are satisfied with the quality of healthcare in their country. The country also scored the highest for basic needs, which means the majority of women in Singapore can afford food and shelter.

A number of Asian countries, including Singapore, Japan, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Hong Kong, also ranked in the top 30 with the highest index scores, scoring 61 to 64 points.

The low-scorers

On the flip side, Afghanistan had the lowest overall score at 22 out of 100 due to the lack of healthcare and access to medication after the Taliban’s attack on healthcare facilities. Above it, the Republic of the Congo ranked second last at 38 points, while Venezuela and Turkey had slightly higher scores of 39 and 40 respectively.

Among the 122 countries or territories, the study also measured the countries with the biggest decline in score compared to last year. India showed the biggest drop compared to 2020. A steep decline in emotional health where increased feelings of sadness, worry, stress and anger was experienced by women in India, alongside a drop in health and safety, basic needs and individual health. The only dimension that didn’t show a sharp decline was preventive care—however, the country was already ranking as one of the lowest in the world on this aspect.

What does this show?

“We also see with greater clarity that healthcare disparities impact women in every country. The growing divides between women in high-income and low-income economies, and in urban and rural communities, are preventing all women from achieving better health,” says Stephen MacMillan, the chairman, president and CEO of Hologic.

“Fewer women feel safe walking alone at night. More are struggling to provide food and shelter,” he adds. “And they are even less satisfied with the healthcare options available to them.”

Most of the countries with the highest overall scores are high-income economies. In addition, countries that spend more per capita on healthcare showed higher overall scores, except for the United States, which spends nearly twice as much as the average country yet still has a lower life expectancy.

Meanwhile, the majority of the countries with the lowest scores have weak or destabilised infrastructure for healthcare. The study points out how women in countries that are already at a disadvantage are suffering even more in 2021, while women in countries that are doing relatively well saw zero to little improvement.

In summary, the study shows that every single country has work to do to improve women’s health, regardless of whether it’s Taiwan at 70 points or Afghanistan at 22.

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