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Keywords:

  • women’s health;
  • health perception;
  • health behaviours;
  • poverty;
  • Jordan

Health perceptions and health behaviours of poor urban Jordanian women

Background. The economic recession and stringent economic adjustment programme that Jordan has gone through since the early 1980s have resulted in lower living standards and higher rates of poverty and unemployment. Poverty debilitates women and impairs their access to health care, proper nutrition and well-being in general.

Rationale. Women’s health behaviours and problems need to be analysed from the perspective of women themselves. The purpose of this study was to describe the health perceptions and health behaviours of poor urban Jordanian women aged 15–45 years in the context of the family and community in which they live. The sample consisted of 267 Jordanian women aged 18–45 years, whose household income was below the poverty line.

Method. This was a community-based study that collected data using semi-structured interviews with women. Health perceptions were measured by asking the women to describe their health status, as they perceived it. Health behaviours were measured by asking the women about their personal hygiene, diet, activity and exercise, sleep, smoking, drinking alcohol, and safety and security.

Results. The average age of women was 33 years, 93% were or had been married, and 87·5% had received some form of education. Although the mean age at marriage was about 20 years, 13·6% were married when they were less than 16 years of age. Study women gave a lower rating of their health status than those reported in national studies. Although they reported bathing once a week, eating about three meals a day, and getting 8 hours sleep, there remain areas for improvement in their health behaviours in terms of performing regular exercise, carrying out regular health examinations, and the type and amount of food consumed.

Recommendations. Implications for nursing, with a special focus on health education and meeting the health needs of these women, are presented.