Bad habits and hard numbers

Grant J Everett

As reading official figures is about as exciting as a cardboard sandwich on stale brown bread, the Australian Bureau of Statistics put together a short animated video about their latest findings when it comes to our health and habits. As this is a very broad subject, the ABS primarily focused on preventable risk factors to our health, which included all the usual suspects: smoking, drinking, obesity, and a lack of exercise. The animated video can be viewed here.

Of all the serious, long-term disabilities Australians can suffer – from Arthritis to Osteoporosis – mental and behavioural conditions came in as THE MOST COMMON with a total of four million people Australia-wide, which is roughly 17.5% of the population. In contrast, the second most common major long-term health condition in the country was Arthritis at 3.5 million people, and a million of us have Type 2 diabetes. As diabetes is a disease that is definitely exacerbated by a lot of the factors mentioned in this list, there’s a real cause-and-effect situation happening here.

In some good news, however, it seems that smokers are slowly becoming an endangered species due to a reason OTHER than disease, with their number dropping from 22% of our population in 2001 to 14.5% in 2015, which is a fall of a full third. Currently, 1 in 7 adults smoke on a daily basis, with men being much more likely to light up than women.

I don’t need to tell you that we love a drink in this country, though our average levels of alcohol consumption have dropped a handful of points in the last few years. And even though it’s common knowledge that we shouldn’t consume more than two standard drinks per day, 44% of Australians have quaffed four or more in one day at some point in the last 12 months.

The brutal battle of the bulge continues with 63% of Aussies (about 11 million people) classed as overweight or obese. However, unlike smoking, this number hasn’t gone down over time, which means we’re not winning the battle. To make matters worse, a quarter of our kids are now overweight or obese, too. Few of us are eating enough fruit or veggies (especially children), and we don’t exercise enough, either. In fact, only about 7% of people get enough vegetables in their diets, which is just appalling.

Despite our bad habits, around half of all Australians over the age of 15 consider themselves to be in good or excellent health, with only around 15% believing that their health is either fair or poor.

Around one in nine adults will experience high or very high levels of psychological distress in any given year

A total of 19,000 Australians were surveyed for the purposes of this report.



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