Australians are generally healthy, with the majority feeling positive about their quality of life, according to the latest national report card on health released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
But most Australians also have at least one health risk factor that is likely to contribute to poorer future health.
Australia’s health 2012, launched today by Health Minister Tanya Plibersek in Canberra, brings together the latest statistics and information on health.
AIHW Director and CEO David Kalisch said that while good health is always good news, there are challenges ahead to maintain an overall healthy population.
‘Australia compares well internationally: we enjoy one of the highest life expectancies in the world—79.5 years for men and 84.0 years for women—our level of smoking continues to fall, and most children are fully immunised,’ Mr Kalisch said.
‘However, there are several areas where Australia compares less favourably. For example, among developed countries, Australia has relatively high death rates from heart disease, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
‘And Australia has one of the highest rates of obesity: the latest figures show, 1 in 4 Australian adults and 1 in 12 children were obese.’
Australia’s health 2012 shows that all Australians have at least one risk factor for poor health, and about 1 in 7 people have five or more risk factors. The most common combination of risks was inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption with insufficient physical activity.
‘Many Australians eat too few vegetables, fruit and wholegrain cereals, and eat too many foods high in fat, sugar and salt. And almost 60% of Australians over 15 don’t do enough physical activity to benefit their health.’
High levels of health risk factors are common among socially disadvantaged people, people with disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those living in rural areas.
‘Most Australians rate their health highly—about 85% of people aged 15 and over rate their health as good or better,’ Mr Kalisch said.
‘The proportion rating their health highly is not the same across all population groups. For example, 61% of people who were unemployed for a year or more rated their healthy highly, compared with 91% of employed people. And the rating generally decreases with age.’
‘In the next two decades, the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to nearly double, and the number aged 85 and over to more than double. This means that healthy ageing is a priority for now, not for the future,’ Mr Kalisch said.
Although many older Australians have good mental and physical health, nearly half of those aged 65–74 have five or more long-term physical health conditions.
The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.
Canberra, 19 June 2012
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