- + Key points: Health-related behaviours
• Unhealthy behaviours contribute significantly to the burden of death and ill-health in NSW. For example:
• smoking causes more than 5,300 deaths and more than 44,000 hospitalisations per year
• alcohol causes more than 1,220 deaths and around 50,000 hospitalisations each year.
• Unhealthy behaviours affect people of all ages.
• Among adults in 2011:
• 17% of men and 13% of women were current smokers
• 60% of men and 45% of women were overweight or obese
• 60% of men and 48.5% of women were adequately physically active
• 48% of men and 56% of women ate adequate quantities of fruit
• 6% of men and 11% of women ate adequate quantities of vegetables.
• Of secondary school students aged 12-17 years in 2008:
• 7% of boys and 8% of girls smoked in the previous week
• 21% of boys and 20% of girls consumed alcohol in the previous week
• 26% of boys and 15% of girls were overweight or obese
• 13% of boys and 12% of girls had used cannabis at least once
• 33% of boys and 17% of girls wear a hat in the sun
• 34% of boys and 53% of girls usually use sunscreen.
• Encouragingly, though:
• smoking rates have declined among both men and women since 1977
• in 2008, for both sexes, the number of ex-smokers was greater than the number of current smokers
• there has been a slight increase in the proportion of adults undertaking adequate physical activity over the last five years
• the death rate from heroin overdose has declined steeply since 1999.
- + Background: Health-related behaviours
Health risk factors and burden of disease
Good health enhances the quality of human life and benefits the community. The opportunity to participate in and contribute to society is maximised in a healthy population. Organisational, economic, and environmental factors have major influences on the health of individuals.
Health-related behaviours also contribute significantly to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancer, and other conditions that account for much of the burden of morbidity and mortality in later life. Some factors have positive effects, and others have negative effects on health. Diets with a high daily intake of fruit and vegetables, or being vaccinated against disease, are factors that protect us against ill health. Risk factors, such as smoking, or being physically inactive increase our risk of ill health (AIHW).
Risk factors contribute to almost one-third of Australia’s total burden of death, disease and disability. Tobacco smoking was estimated to contribute the greatest burden (7.8% of the total health burden), followed by high blood pressure (7.6%) and overweight or obesity (7.5%) (AIHW). Physical inactivity was responsible for 6.6% of the total burden of disease and injury and low fruit and vegetable consumption for 2.1% (Begg et al. 2007).
These risk factors are major contributors to the development of chronic conditions (such as cancers and cardiovascular diseases), which are the main contributors to the total burden of disease and injury in Australia (AIHW Cat. no. AUS 122 2010).
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia’s health. Available at http://www.aihw.gov.au/australias-health/
Begg S, Vos T, Barker B. The burden of disease and injury in Australia, 2003. Cat. no. PHE 82 edition. Canberra: AIHW, 2007. http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=6442467990
- + Interventions: Health-related behaviours
The NSW Healthy Eating and Active Living Strategy 2013-2018 provides a whole of government framework to promote and support healthy eating and active living in NSW and to reduce the impact of lifestyle-related chronic disease.
The Strategy has four key strategic directions:
- environments to support healthy eating and active living
- statewide healthy eating and active living support programs
- healthy eating and active living advice as part of routine service delivery
- education and information to enable informed, healthy choices.