Emotional problems were stated as the main reason why 50% of Spanish women were dissatisfied with their level of well-being.

Although 75% agree that it is advisable to have an annual medical check-up, only 46% do so.

The DKV Instituto de la Vida Saludable (Healthy Living Institute) has prepared the 5th DKV Study on Healthy Lifestyle and Wellness in Women, in collaboration with the Rey Juan Carlos University. From the over 3,000 women who took part in the study in Spain, only 0.3% of the women fulfil all the requirements for leading a totally healthy lifestyle, according to the standards set by DKV. This small percentage are women that do not smoke, do not drink alcohol, rest at least 7 to 9 hours a day, do some kind of physical activity, eat five times a day, drink one to two litres of water a day and have medical and gynaecological check-ups once a year.

A lack of motivation and time continue to be the main barriers to a healthy lifestyle. The Director General of Health for DKV Seguros, Francisco J. Juan Ruiz, said that “knowing our health condition is the first step to improving it. Therefore, we want to offer the information and tools necessary to help bring awareness to the female population about the importance of keeping a healthy lifestyle.”

The study was carried out on over 3,000 Spanish women, between 18 and 65 years old, from all autonomous communities. Different variables were taken into account, which gave a much more complete profile of the members of the sample group. These variables include social class, education, employment situation, the existence of a chronic disease and Body Mass Index.

State of well-being

33% of the participants stated that their general well-being was average or bad, an 11% drop with respect to the results of last year, where 78% of the women stated that their state of well-being was good or very good. This study conducted by DKV only includes 10% of the women that say they are in a very good state of well-being. However, the participants' expectations of improvement remain the same, where 43% of the women believe that their well-being will improve in the next 5 years. Women without children are more optimistic and are those who are in a very good state of well-being.

On the other hand, 50% of the women who are not happy with their state of well-being say that emotional problems were the main reasons, followed to a lesser extent by physical problems and chronic diseases. Carmen Gallardo, Dean of the Health Sciences Faculty at the Rey Juan Carlos University and collaborator in the study, expressed her concern regarding the emotional well-being of Spanish women. “Emotional problems have an effect on all aspects of life, including eating, rest and physical activity, among others. This is why it is so important to detect and face this type of emotional loads when trying to achieve a healthy lifestyle.”

The role of work is also a key factor when analysing general well-being. Also significant is the rise seen in the personal satisfaction index, which reaches 49% this year, while the professional satisfaction index remains the same for the second year running at 42%, below the 55% registered in 2016. Continuing in the scope of the working like, 88% of the women that participated in the study said that their work can be sometimes, frequently or almost always a source of stress, where only 12% stated that they did not suffer any anxiety related to their professional life.

The study also revealed that 50% of Spanish women spend less than one hour per day on personal care, 38% do not do sport and 37% can spend 1 to 3 hours interacting socially and with friends. Likewise, 62% of women plan their daily activities but only 36% manage to complete them all.

Physical activity and diet

In addition, doing exercise is also on the rise, with 37% saying that they do it habitually. Among these, 25% practice sport daily, while 72% do so 2 or 3 times a week, and women between the ages of 55 and 65 are the most active on a daily basis. Health, wanting to lose weight and relaxation are still the main reasons given by women for doing some type of physical activity. However, 68% of the participants of the study conducted by the DKV Instituto de la Vida Saludable (Healthy Living Institute) state that sometime they have had the intent of starting to sport but they later gave up. Lack of time being the main reason (59%), followed by the lack of interest or physical limitations. Women between 24 and 34 years old, as well Spanish women who are obese, are the group who are least constant when doing physical activity.

If we analyse the diet, half of Spanish women eat the recommended five meals per day, registering a slight but gradual increase over 2016 (48%) and 2014 (44%). Only 4% admit that they never follow a balanced diet, as opposed to the 24% that say they almost always do and the 72% that answered frequently or sometimes. In total, 56% have a normal BMI, 25% are overweight and 14% are obese. The lack of motivation, time and knowledge are the three main reasons that stop them from following a healthy diet. The study also reveals that only 22% of the participants eat vegetables on a daily basis, while 49% eat ready-made or fast food; 50% fry-ups, sauces and fatty stews; and 39% fizzy and/or sugary drinks. With respect to hydration, 58% of the women drink the recommended amount of one to two litres of water a day.

Healthy habits and rest

40% of the women that participated in the study by DKV Seguros state that they try to maintain healthy habits, but that they are not able to follow a routine or be consistent. Between 18 and 44 years of age, the main reason is the lack of time, and between 45 and 65, the lack of motivation.

On the other hand, the levels of alcohol and tobacco consumption remain the same, with 67% saying that they drink alcohol occasionally or, to a lesser degree (17%), on a daily basis. Women still represent 26% of smokers in Spain. Furthermore, although 75% agree that it is advisable to have an annual medical check-up, and up to 80% are of the same opinion regarding gynaecological check-ups, less than half of those taking part fulfil these recommendations, 46% respectively. On the other hand, the study confirms that the percentage of women who medicate daily (36%), mainly analgesics (40%) and anti-inflammatory drugs (39%), has increased with respect to past years. 73% do so because they suffer a chronic disease, whereas the remaining 27% self-medicate when they have a mild discomfort, to relax or for other reasons. 48% in the first case and 73% in the second.

The DKV study has found that there has been a slight but significant increase of time spent during the day on devices with screens in their free time. 46% of the Spanish women surveyed say that they spend from one to three hours a day watching television, on the computer or on the mobile phone, while 45% (especially between 18 and 34) do so for more than three hours a day. For Dr. Carmen Gallardo, “If last year 11% of Spanish women spent less than an hour after work in front of a screen, in 2018 the percentage has dropped to 9%. In order to maintain a balanced lifestyle we must try to spend our leisure time practising sports and outdoors; sedentary habits are one of the worse enemies of a healthy lifestyle."

The analysis of sleeping habits in the study revealed that 46% of women sleeps between 7 and 9 hours daily and the percentage increases to 65% at weekends, especially among the younger women. However, women between 55 and 65 years old are those who sleep less than 5 hours a day. Nervous conditions are the main reasons why women sleep fewer hours. 28% of the women questioned say that they have no problems sleeping. The most usual bed time for Spanish women is between 10 pm and midnight (62%).

Autonomous Communities

Murcia is the Autonomous Community with the highest percentage of women who have a healthy lifestyle. On the other hand, in the Balearic Islands they say that they take worse care of themselves. Here we find the highest percentage of smokers and ex-smokers in the country, with 66% of the women having smoked sporadically or habitually.

Navarra, in addition to being the region where less sport is practised, stands out as being the region with the fewest women who have a medical check-up, with 41% saying that they never go to the doctor unless it is an emergency. Cantabria, on the other hand, is the autonomous community where the participating women registered the highest amount of physical activity, but it is also where the most alcohol is consumed.

Catalan women suffer the most from stress, with 41% stating that they are always or almost always stressed, as opposed to the women from the Basque Country, who suffer the least (24.82%).

The women from the Valencian Community who participated in the study conducted by the DKV Institute say that they sleep two more hours, whereas in Castilla y Leon women go to bed the latest, many after one in the morning.

You can read the executive summary of the study in http://eng.dkvseguros.com/salud/instituto/estudio-mujer