Look at the people around you and ask yourself,
Are we healthy?
As a nation, Australians have enjoyed generally good health in recent years but sometimes “good” just doesn’t cut it. There are still many health risk factors that come to play when it comes to someone’s health.
The good news is that people are pro-active now more than ever. Much emphasis has been put on diet and exercise as key contributors to one’s overall good health and well-being.
What is Health?
As defined by the Australian Government, particularly that of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, health is defined as a “state of well-being”. We are aware that many factors affect our health and can be classified as determinants and interventions. Determinants are factors that can affect our health, while interventions are steps we take to improve our well-being.
The World Health Organization goes beyond the physical state, but instead defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ (WHO 1946).
Australians seem to enjoy “good health” and the government has outlined measures to determine how they assess a population’s well-being:
- Life expectancy
- Disability-adjusted life year (DALY)
- Health-adjusted life expectancy
- Self-assessed health status
Determinants have also been classified, especially since these are factors that may impact our health, either positively or negatively:
- Broad features of society (culture, affluence, etc.)
- Environment factors (natural, built)
- Socioeconomic characteristics (education, employment, income and wealth, etc.)
- Health behaviours (tobacco use, alcohol consumption, physical activity, etc.)
- Psychological factors (stress, torture, and trauma)
- Safety factors (risk taking, violence, occupational health and safety)
- Biomedical factors (birth weight, body weight, blood pressure, etc.)
Here is a quick overview of how “healthy” Australians are:
(Statistics are based on the government’s current report (data collected between 2014-2018) and shown here are findings relevant to this article)
- In 2018, there are approximately 16.5 million Australians aged 15-63 years old.
- About 71% of Australia’s population lives in major cities, while about 18% lives in inner regional areas.
- Australians are living longer lives: the average life expectancy of a male is 80 years old, while a female’s is 84 years old
- In 2014-2015, Australians aged 15 years and older self-assessed their health. About 57% rated their health as “excellent”
Compared to the rest of the world, Australians are seen to be generally more healthy:
- The life expectancy of an Australian male is 80 years old, world average is 77 years old
- The life expectancy of an Australian female is 84 years old, world average is 83 years old
- Death caused by coronary health disease (per 100,000 population): 85 people in Australia, world average is 112 people
- Dementia (per 1,000 population): 14.8 Australians, world average is 14.2 people.
- Smokers percentage (age 15 and older): 12.4% Australians, world average is 18.4%
- Alcohol consumption (litres per person, 15 and older): 9.7 litres for Australians, world average is 9 litres.
- Obesity percentage (age 15 and older): 27.9% of Australians are obese, compared to the world average of 19.4%
Overweight, Obesity, and Physical Activity
Compared to the rest of the world, Australia has a higher percentage of obese people in its population.
Overweight and obesity is the excessive accumulation of fat. It is considered a major health concern by the government especially since the percentage of obese and overweight people has grown in the last few years.
The reason why a person becomes overweight or obese is the disproportion of energy consumed and energy released. Simply put, your diet and how active you are on a daily basis directly affects body weight. Of course, there are other factors such as genetics and existing health conditions that can also affect the reading on the weighing scale.
Let us also not discredit how, in recent years, the average Aussie spends more time sitting down in a week because of work and other reasons: in 2014-2015, approximately 34 hours a week is spent sitting and lying down (not including sleeping hours). Let’s compare that to a 2011-2012 study that says it was 31 hours a week. A three-hour jump doesn’t sound like it would make a difference, but it did.
Physical activity, or lack thereof, also seems to be a major national concern. Here’s why.
It is already universally known that exercise or any form of physical activity greatly reduces the chances of developing health conditions like diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, as well as risk factors like high blood pressure and of course, obesity and overweight.
Based on age groups, the government released the following data:
- 52% of people aged 18-64 years old did less than the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.
- 75% of Australians aged 65 and older did not do the recommended 30 minutes of activity 5 days in a week.
Physical activity does not necessarily mean you need to hit the gym; it can be defined as doing household chores, sports activities, and such.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
The Australian government recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous physical activity. Breaking these down into several sessions is crucial. It isn’t very wise to do continuous exercise for extended periods.
The benefits of regular physical activity can never be stressed enough. Aside from weight management, enjoy such things as:
- A lesser chance of developing chronic health conditions
- A positive impact on your mental health
- Less stress
- A boost in self-confidence
- Better sleep quality
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