Australians eat poorly, are overweight and unfit: but it’s not all bad news

Parliament house flag post

Australians eat poorly, are overweight and unfit: but it’s not all bad news

Posted 1/11/2012 by Amanda Biggs


Image: City of Tea Tree Gully
The Australian Health Survey, a regular survey of Australia's health, shows that most Australian adults have a poor diet, are either overweight or obese and don’t get enough exercise. These unhealthy habits put us at greater risk of a range of adverse health outcomes including the development of serious diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

The first results, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on 29 October 2012, cover health status, health risk factors and long term health conditions. Results to be released later will cover health service use, more detailed information on dietary intake, physical activity and sedentary behaviour, biomedical health measures, and representative results for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

According to this first release, Australian adults are failing to consume adequate levels of fruit and vegetables. Some 94.4 per cent of us do not meet the national recommended intake of 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables a day. Although nearly half meet the recommended intake of fruit, just 8.3 per cent eat sufficient vegetables.

Meanwhile we are more likely to be overweight and obese than a healthy weight, with 63.4 per cent of all adults categorised as being either overweight or obese and just 35.4 per cent sitting in the normal range of Body Mass Index (BMI). Nor are we getting sufficient exercise. Just under a third of Australian adults report they undertook moderate to high levels of exercise in the previous week, with more than two thirds reporting either low levels or no exercise.

On the upside, just 16.3 per cent of adults reported being a daily smoker, although the highest rate of smoking (20.4 per cent) was reported among 25–34 year olds. Meanwhile, a majority (55.6 per cent) consider themselves to be in good or excellent health, while just 4 per cent report poor health.

The following is a summary of the main results:

Intake of fruit and vegetables
  • 48.3 per cent of all adults reported they consumed at least 2 serves of fruit a day (the recommended level). More women than men met the recommended consumption level, 52.7 per cent of women compared to 43.8 per cent of men 
  • 8.3 per cent of all adults reported they consumed at least 5 serves of vegetables a day (the recommended level). Overall, equal proportions of women and men met the recommended consumption level
  • Overall, 94.4 per cent of adults do not meet the national recommendations of intake for fruit and vegetable consumption
Body mass index (BMI), overweight and obesity
  • 35.2 per cent of all adults were categorised as being within the normal BMI range
  • 63.4 per cent of all adults were categorised as being either overweight or obese. More men than women were categorised as overweight or obese, 70.3 per cent of men compared with 56.2 per cent of women
  • Lowest rate of overweight or obesity were in the youngest age range (18-24)
  • Highest rate of normal BMI were also in the youngest age range (18-24)
  • Highest rate of overweight or obese (80.6 per cent) was among men aged 45-54 
Exercise and physical activity
  • 32.4 per cent of adults reported moderate or high levels of physical activity or exercise 
  • 67.5 per cent of all adults reported low or no (sedentary) exercise or physical activity in the previous week, with more women than men having low or no exercise levels, 72.6 per cent of women, compared to 62.4 per cent of men
  • The age group with the highest proportion of sedentary behaviour were those aged 75 and over (56.9 per cent), and the age group with the lowest proportion of sedentary behaviour were those aged 18-24 (29.4 per cent) 
Smoking
  • 16.3 per cent reported being a daily smoker, with more men (18.2 per cent) than women (14.4 per cent) smoking on a daily basis
  • Lowest rates of smoking were among those aged 55-64 (14.1 per cent) and the highest rate was among those aged 25-34 (20.4 per cent) 
Drinking alcohol
  • 19.2 per cent of all adults exceed the recommended guideline of no more than 2 standard drinks a day
In terms of trends over time, rates of overweight or obesity continue to climb, but our level of sedentary activity has fallen slightly since 2007–08. The proportion who report smoking has been steadily falling while drinking more than is good for us has also declined. Trend data on fruit and vegetable consumption was not reported in these first results.
 
These first results are based on self-report of risk factors, where an element of personal bias can be present. Later results will provide more detailed information and for the first time biomedical measures will be included, which should add a more objective dimension.
 
These results are in line with other surveys, as summarised in this recent report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Using data from a range of surveys it also reported an increased prevalence of risk factors, which are linked to preventable diseases such as type 2 diabetes and kidney disease, as noted in this previous Flagpost
 
Overall the news from this survey presents a mixed, but still worrying picture. While some risk factors such as smoking have fallen, other risk factors continue to rise or have fallen only marginally. It tells us we need to eat more fruit and vegetables, particularly the latter, exercise more and continue to heed messages about giving up smoking and lowering our alcohol consumption.
 
 


Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.

Add your comment

[Click to expand]

We welcome your comments, or additional information which is relevant to a post. These can be added by clicking on the ‘Add your comment’ option above. Please note that the Parliamentary Library will moderate comments, and reserves the right not to publish comments that are inconsistent with the objectives of FlagPost. This includes spam, profanity and personal abuse, as well as comments that are factually incorrect or politically partisan. We will close comments after three months.




Captcha
Generate a new image
Type characters from the image:

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print

FlagPost

Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament


Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice

Archive

Syndication

Tagcloud

Refugees asylum climate change immigration Australian foreign policy parliament social security welfare policy elections welfare reform school education health financing higher education Australian Defence Force emissions trading indigenous Australians women private health insurance people trafficking illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 United Nations Employment Asia disability income management Middle East Medicare Australian Bureau of Statistics statistics sport health forced labour federal budget Afghanistan Industrial Relations Carbon Pricing Mechanism politics dental health United States aid child protection environment poker machines Australia in the Asian Century Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency steroids World Anti-Doping Agency National Disability Insurance Scheme detention aged care 43rd Parliament slavery health system Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Criminal Law Fair Work Act Australian Public Service governance labour force people smuggling transport debt taxation international relations constitution New Zealand food WADA Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme pensions public service reform children's health Aviation foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability parliamentary procedure Senate Senators and Members ALP ASADA Newstart Parenting Payment multiculturalism Youth Allowance sea farers Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations accountability Papua New Guinea youth paid parental leave same sex relationships corruption coal seam gas customs planning federal election 2013 Australian Electoral Commission doping OECD crime health risks International Women's Day Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy welfare ASIO intelligence community terrorist groups Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining High Court military history electoral reform employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing European Union Federal Court family assistance skilled migration banking United Nations Security Council Australian economy forestry food labelling vocational education and training Drugs UK Parliament welfare systems Indonesia social media children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report energy science social inclusion human rights paternalism Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse terrorism World Trade Organization Australia public health China housing affordability bulk billing political parties water productivity health policy Governor-General US economy trade unions domestic violence export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery firearms question time speaker superannuation public housing election results by-election expertise public policy climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leadership voting Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry regulation Pacific Islands reserved seats research and development new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare ADRV Census Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy royal commission US politics violence against women language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage Population rural and regional mental health alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran transparency ANZUS regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution early childhood education Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly national security smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid disability employment Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying asylum seekers Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct integrity retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines workers financial sector Canada Somalia United Kingdom GDP Tasmania world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea fuel rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra environmental law federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition standards conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office NATO work-life balance

Show all
Show less