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Rural Remote Health. 2007 Oct-Dec;7(4):823. Epub 2007 Oct 10.

Understanding Australian rural women's ways of achieving health and wellbeing - a metasynthesis of the literature.

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  • 1James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia.



Although Australian rural women appear to be coping well despite a lack of services, harsh environmental conditions and overall rural health disadvantage, there is little research into the factors which promote good health among them. The aim of this article is to document and analyse current understandings about how rural Australian women maintain health and wellbeing, by conducting a metasynthesis of peer reviewed empirical qualitative research.


Searches were conducted of CINAHL, MEDLINE, Proquest, Blackwell Synergy, Informit, Infotrac, National Rural Health Alliance and Indigenous Health Infonet data bases. A definition of health and wellbeing as a positive concept emphasising social and personal resources as well as physical capacities, provided a framework for the review. Six studies published in rural health, nursing and sociology journals between 2001 and 2006 were selected. Common and recurring themes from the original studies were identified. Reciprocal translation was used to synthesise the findings among the studies, leading to interpretations beyond those identified in the original studies.


Four themes emerged from the metasynthesis: isolation, belonging, coping with adversity, and rural identity. The findings of this study exhibit a tension between a sense of belonging and the experience of social and geographical isolation. The study findings also reveal tension between adherence to a strong gendered rural identity which fosters a culture of stoicism and self reliance and feelings of resistance to societal expectations of coping with adversity.


Metasynthesis enabled a deeper understanding of the health and wellbeing of rural women in Australia. The social experiences of rural women influence the way they construe their health and wellbeing. Understanding how women maintain health and wellbeing is critical in ensuring that policies and services meet the needs of rural women and do not entrench existing inequalities.

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