Locality, loneliness and lifestyle: a qualitative study of factors influencing women's health perceptions

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Abstract

The contribution of women to the achievement of global public health targets cannot be underestimated. It is well evidenced that within families, women are a key influence on the health and well-being of their children and partners. However, geographical differences in women's health inequalities persist and research focusing specifically on women's perceptions of locality factors influencing their own health and well-being is scarce. This paper presents an interpretive, qualitative research study undertaken in 2011 with a group of women living in one locality in the North East of England in the United Kingdom which aimed to better understand their health and well-being perceptions and locality influences on it. Fifteen women participated in two focus groups and six individual, semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis yielded four key themes: health and well-being perceptions; mental resilience; low income and choice; and influence of place. The influence of women's geographical location in relation to amenities and services and loneliness were recurring factors in the discussion, each influencing lifestyle. It was evident that women in their local context were themselves assets through which their own physical and mental health could be improved. However, women's perceptions of protective factors and their influences on health and well-being varied. Connecting with women in the context of their immediate living circumstances and understanding their perceptions as individuals are important first steps in the process of gaining consensus and mobilising their assets to collectively build healthy local communities.

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