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Health of older women: survey results

This page provides information about the results of the RCOG Women’s Network survey on the health information needs of older women in the UK.

This survey is part of our project aiming to support the provision of information that women need to lead healthy lives post-menopause. Find out more about the background, aims and objectives of this project.

Survey results: health information needs of older women in the UK

We surveyed women in June and July 2015 to find out what their health information needs are. 

Over 2100 women responded to the survey, which was promoted by the RCOG and partner organisations including:

  • Women’s Health Concern
  • The Eve Appeal
  • Wellbeing of Women
  • National Osteoporosis Society
  • Menopause Matters

A summary of key findings and recommendations is below. You can also read the full report (PDF, 2 mb). 

Key findings

We designed the survey around seven conditions identified as being the most relevant to women of post-reproductive age:

  • Menopause
  • Osteoporosis
  • Prolapse of the womb,
  • Incontinence
  • Depression and mood change
  • Problems with sexual relations
  • Gynaecological cancer

Of the women surveyed, we found that;

  • Almost three-quarters thought the seven conditions were the most important ones affecting older women. The most frequently suggested additions were breast cancer and arthritis.
  • The two conditions of greatest concern were:
    • menopause (58%)
    • depression and mood change (45%).
  • The level of knowledge about the seven conditions was quite low.
    • One-third or less said they knew a lot about the symptoms of each of the conditions
    • No more than 20% felt they knew a lot about the treatment options for any of them.
  • Women identified the below as their likely source for advice and information:
    • GP (87%)
    • Google/other internet search engines (70%)
    • Friends and family (53%). 
  • Around three-quarters had been to see their GP or Practice Nurse regarding a condition they were concerned about. Women were least likely to go to their GP about incontinence or problems with sexual relations.
  • The key reasons women gave for not going to see their GP were that they were not suffering symptoms, they were managing themselves or they were too embarrassed.
  • When asked what specific improvements should be made regarding information about health issues for older women, there was a plea for more reliable, up-to-date information being made accessible and available to women and to their employers.


There is a need among older women for more knowledge about the symptoms and treatment options for the main health conditions that affect them. Based on the results of the survey, it is recommended that:

  • Improved information for women of this age group should be delivered. The RCOG should engage with relevant stakeholders to discuss how best to facilitate this.
  • The RCOG patient information and the format it takes should be influenced by the response to the preferences for online information/online symptom checkers as opposed to downloadable leaflets.
  • As a trusted and reliable source of online information, the RCOG should further promote itself as an information resource for women.
  • The RCOG could consider whether there is potential to expand its provision of online women’s health information by collating and displaying information on wider issues such as breast cancer and osteoporosis through its website.
  • There is scope for engagement with professional membership bodies to explore ways of raising awareness among employers.

Information hub: Menopause and women’s health in later life

As a result of this work the RCOG and its Women’s Network, alongside its partner organisations listed above, have developed an information hub for women around the menopause and health in later life. The hub brings together reliable information around topics identified by women as being important at this stage of life to support self-care and conversations with healthcare professionals.    

Elsewhere on the site

Women’s Voices Involvement Panel
This virtual network helps the College get as wide a perspective as possible on women’s views about their health care – find out how to get involved
Support our work
Discover other ways to help support the College's work to improve women's health care in the UK and around the world