Physical health status

Physical health relates to the functioning of the physical body. Some physical health factors are beyond the control of an individual, such as age, sex and genetic make-up; others relate to lifestyle, diet and physical activities (ABS 2001, AIHW 2021).

People’s lifestyles, diets and physical activity patterns change once they enter prison, and this can lead to changes that influence health. Engaging in physical activity can improve physical health through reducing the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, chronic health conditions, some cancers and depression (Warburton et al. 2006; WHO 2022). The nutritional value of a diet can also have an impact on physical health and strength as well as on weight (Hannan-Jones and Capra 2016). There are also mental, emotional and social benefits to physical wellbeing (Eime et al. 2013).

This section presents data from the NPHDC on self-assessed physical health, physical activity and weight changes in custody, as well as on incidents of physical and sexual assaults in custody which can harm physical and mental health.