Women Health

  • Worldwide, women live an average four years longer than men.
  • In 2011, women’s life expectancy at birth was more than 80 years in 46 countries, but only 58 years in the WHO African Region.
  • Girls are far more likely than boys to suffer sexual abuse. 
  • Globally, cardiovascular disease, often thought to be a “male” problem, is the number one killer of women.
  • Breast cancer is the leading cancer killer among women aged 20–59 years worldwide.



Infancy and childhood (0-9 years)

Both death rates and the causes of death are similar for boys and girls during infancy and childhood. Prematurity, birth asphyxia and infections are the main causes of death during the first month of life, which is the time of life when the risk of death is the highest.

Pneumonia, prematurity, birth asphyxia and diarrhoea are the main causes of death during the first five years of life. 

Adolescent girls (10-19 years)

  • Mental health and injuries
  • Self-inflicted injuries, road traffic injuries and drowning are among the main causes of death worldwide in adolescent girls.
  • Depressive disorders and – in adolescents aged 15-19 years, schizophrenia – are leading causes of ill health.

Teenage pregnancy 

  • The UK has the highest teenage birth and abortion rates in Western Europe (1,2).
  • Rates of teenage births are five times those in the Netherlands, double those in France and more than twice those in Germany(2).
  • In 2006 the teenage pregnancy rate in the USA increased for the first time in 10 years to 71.5 per 1,000 15–19 year olds. Around a third of these ended in abortion(3).
  • Groups who are more vulnerable to becoming teenage parents include young people who are: in or leaving care, homeless, underachieving at school, children of teenage parents, members of some ethnic groups, involved in crime, living in areas with higher social deprivation(4)
  • Young women living in socially disadvantaged areas are less likely to opt for an abortion if they get pregnant(5)
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Cervical cancer 

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in a woman’s cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vagina).

Cancer of the cervix often has no symptoms in its early stages. If you do have symptoms, the most common is unusual vaginal bleeding, which can occur after sex, in between periods or after the menopause.

Abnormal bleeding doesn’t mean that you definitely have cervical cancer, but it should be investigated by your GP as soon as possible. If your GP thinks you might have cervical cancer, you should be referred to see a specialist within two weeks.

Breast cancer 

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK.

In 2011, just under 50,000 women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Most women who get it (8 out of 10) are over 50, but younger women, and in rare cases, men, can also get breast cancer.

If it’s treated early enough, breast cancer can be prevented from spreading to other parts of the body.

Substance use

Adolescent girls are increasingly using tobacco and alcohol, which risks compromising their health, particularly in later life. In some places girls are using tobacco and alcohol nearly as much as boys. For example, in the WHO Region of the Americas, 23% of boys and 21% of girls aged 13-15 reported that they used tobacco in the previous month.


In 21 out of 41 countries with data, more than one third of girls aged 15-19 years are anaemic. Anaemia, most commonly iron-deficiency anaemia, increases the risk of haemorrhage and sepsis during childbirth. It causes cognitive and physical deficits in young children and reduces productivity in adults. Women and girls are most vulnerable to anaemia due to insufficient iron in their diets, menstrual blood loss and periods of rapid growth.


For women aged 15-44 years, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death worldwide, with unsafe sex being the main risk factor in developing countries. Biological factors, lack of access to information and health services, economic vulnerability and unequal power in sexual relations expose women, particularly young women, to HIV infection.

Maternal health

Maternal deaths are the second biggest killer of women of reproductive age. Every year, approximately 287 000 women die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth, 99% of them are in developing countries.

Despite the increase in contraceptive use over the past 30 years, many women in all regions still do not have access to modern contraceptive methods. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, one in four women who wish to delay or stop childbearing does not use any family planning method.


Violence against women is widespread around the world. Recent figures indicate that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. On average, 30% of women who have been in a relationship experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner.

Depression and suicide

Women are more susceptible to depression and anxiety than men. Depression is the leading cause of disease burden for women in both high-income and low- and middle-income countries. Depression following childbirth, affects 20% of mothers in low- and lower-middle-income countries, which is even higher than previous reports from high-income countries.

Every year, an estimated 800 000 people die from suicide globally, the majority being men. However, there are exceptions, for instance in China where the suicide rate in rural areas is higher among women than men. Attempted suicide, which exceeds suicide by up to 20 times, is generally more frequent among women than men and causes an unrecognized burden of disability. At the same time, attempted suicide is an important risk factor for death from suicide and shows the need for appropriate health services for this group.


Disability – which affects 15% of the world’s population – is more common among women than men. Women with disabilities have poorer health outcomes, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than women without disabilities. Adult women with disabilities are at least 1.5 times more likely to be a victim of violence than those without a disability.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Tobacco use and the burning of solid fuels for cooking are the primary risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – a life-threatening lung disease – in women. One third of all of the COPD deaths and disease burden in women is caused by exposure to indoor smoke from cooking with open fires or inefficient stoves.

Older women (60 years and over)

Globally, men slightly outnumber women but, as women tend to live longer than men, they represent a higher proportion of older adults: 54% of people 60 years of age and older are women, a proportion that rises to almost 60% at age 75 and older, and to 70% at age 90 and older.

At womans health clinic we can listen to your concerns, carry out investigations and tests that may help up find out problems early.