Australian Youth Report: Smoking Down, Obesity Up

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Insights into the characteristics of young Australians can tell us a lot about the current state of our country such as the increased level of obesity and the likelihood of teenagers becoming smokers. We look at findings from the Youth Survey 2012.

Mission Australia's Youth Survey 2012 is based on responses from 15,351 young Australians aged 15-19 yearsi. The report provides an understanding of young people's views on a variety of issues including health, education and employment.

Australia's continuing high level of education prepares youth for the life ahead.


The increasing level of obesity in young Australians is of pressing concern. 25.3 per cent of children aged 5 to 17 were reported as being overweight or obese in 2012 - that's an increase of 4 per cent from 1995ii. The issue of obesity in the population has been directly linked to the growing number of people leading sedentary lifestyles. This increase of sedentary behaviour is connected to a decline in physical activity because more and more people are spending time watching TV or using a computeriii. Studies have shown that obese children are more likely to develop health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseaseiv later in life.


Boys aged 12 to 17 were slightly more likely to be smokers (7 per cent) compared with girls of the same age (6.3 per cent)v according to a 2011 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) survey. This represents a 2.1 per cent decrease for boys and a 3.5 per cent decrease for girls from 2005 to 2011v. Although the rate of illegal underage smoking is gradually decreasing, this level of smoking still highlights a problem for the future health of the Australian population. The addictive nature of nicotine, combined with the vulnerability of young bodies to the damaging effects of tobacco smoke, can lead to a lifetime of tobacco-related illnesses.


The consumption of alcohol in the previous seven days was one factor uncovered in the report. The consumption by 12- to 17-year olds decreased from 28.6 per cent in 2005 to 17.4 per cent in 2011vi. This decline is encouraging since alcohol-related brain injury (ARBI) symptoms such as learning and memory problems, difficulty with balance, and impaired brain development can occur in those who drink above the recommended levelsvii.

Australian youth defy their generation's stereotype by leading active, healthy lives.


The prevailing stereotype of teenagers and young adults is that they are apathetic and lazyviii. However, the Youth Survey 2012's findings indicate this is not the case, with increased involvement in a wide range of activities. The survey found that 78.4 per cent of young Australians participated in sport, up from 65.5 per cent in 2010ii. Participation in physical activity can help lead to a reduction in health issues later in life including obesity, diabetes and heart problemsix.


Of the 15- to 19-year olds surveyed, 93.9 per cent were studying full time, 2.1 per cent higher than reported in 2011i. 95.2 per cent of current school students stated that they intended to complete Year 12i. The completion of year 12 is significant in opening up opportunities for tertiary study or apprenticeships and training that allow for higher salaries to be earned later in lifex.

For parents, the Youth Survey provides valuable insights into national trends for Australia's young people. It raises awareness of the problem of obesity among young Australians, but also shows the opportunity is there to counter them through increasing physical activity. Importantly, it provides an indication of the higher educational qualifications that young people will need in order to flourish in adulthood. Ensuring they have the financial support to reach their educational goals is an important part of nurturing their future success. Life insurance can help if your family suffers an unexpected loss of income from death, prolonged illness, or permanent disability. Contact Allianz today for more information about the Allianz Life Plan, and the cover options we offer; Life Cover, Critical Illness cover and Permanently Unable to Work cover.

i Mission Australia 2013, Youth Survey 2012, viewed 11 13 July November 2013,

ii Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2009, 4102.0 Children who are overweight or obese, viewed 13 November 2013,
and Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2011-12, 4364.0.55.001 Australian Health Survey: First Results, viewed 13 November 2013,

iii Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2012, 1301.0 Year Book Australia, 2012, viewed 13 November 2013,

iv Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2013, 1301.0 Health Risk Factors, viewed 13 November 2013,

v Australian Government 2011, Changes in smoking prevalence, viewed 13 November 2013,

vi Australian Government 2011, Has the drinking behaviour of secondary students changed over time?, viewed 13 November 2013,

vii Better Health Channel 2013, Alcohol - teenagers, viewed 13 November 2013,

viii 2010, Gen Y too lazy and unfocused to hire - bosses, viewed 13 November 2013,

ix Department of Health and Ageing, Australian Government 2013, Promoting healthy weight, viewed 13 November 2009,

x Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australian Government 2013, Skills for all Australians, viewed 13 November 2013,