Iron deficiency, general health and fatigue: Results from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health
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Associations between self-reported ‘low iron’, general health and well-being, vitality and tiredness in women, were examined using physical (PCS) and mental (MCS) component summary and vitality (VT) scores from the MOS short-form survey (SF-36). 14,762 young (18–23 years) and 14,072 mid-age (45–50 years) women, randomly selected from the national health insurance commission (Medicare) database, completed a baseline mailed self-report questionnaire and 12,328 mid-age women completed a follow-up questionnaire 2 years later. Young and mid-age women who reported (ever) having had ‘low iron’ reported significantly lower mean PCS, MCS and VT scores, and greater prevalence of ‘constant tiredness’ at baseline than women with no history of iron deficiency [Differences: young PCS = −2.2, MCS = −4.8, VT = −8.7; constant tiredness: 67% vs. 45%; mid-age PCS = −1.4, MCS = −3.1, VT = −5.9; constant tiredness: 63% vs. 48%]. After adjusting for number of children, chronic conditions, symptoms and socio-demographic variables, mean PCS, MCS and VT scores for mid-age women at follow-up were significantly lower for women who reported recent iron deficiency (in the last 2 years) than for women who reported past iron deficiency or no history of iron deficiency [Means: PCS – recent = 46.6, past = 47.8, never = 47.7; MCS – recent = 45.4, past = 46.9, never = 47.4; VT – recent = 54.8, past = 57.6, never = 58.6]. The adjusted mean change in PCS, MCS and VT scores between baseline and follow-up were also significantly lower among mid-age women who reported iron deficiency only in the last 2 years (i.e. recent iron deficiency) [Mean change: PCS = −3.2; MCS = −2.1; VT = −4.2]. The results suggest that iron deficiency is associated with decreased general health and well-being and increased fatigue.
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