Health update: Australia's Health 2012

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Latest reports from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIWH) paint a picture of our nation's health. Released in June this year, the report brings together and explains data collected by various surveys and studies published since 2007. Australia's Health 2012 shows us that while we consider ourselves to be healthy, our actual health doesn't quite match up.

The report tells us that we assess our own health positively: more than half (56%) of Australians in 2007-8 rated their own health as excellent or very good while 29% rated their health as good. Only 15% described their health as fair or poori.

Australians will be forgiven for their optimistic assessment of their own health. Compared with the world, we have an excellent health care system, high immunisation ratesii, and our life expectancies are highiii: in 2009 we ranked sixth globally. A boy born today can be expected to live to 80 years, while a girl can expect to live to ripe age of 84iv.

The AIWH report shows that one in twelve kids and one in four adults now fall into the obese weight category.

And there are many positive things in the report about our health as a nation. In the period from 1968 to 2009, the number of deaths related to cardiovascular disease (CVD) decreased by 78%v. This good news can be put down advancements in prevention, detection and management of CVDv. In 2009 63% of victims aged 40-90 survived their heart attacks, compared to 47% in 1997vi.

Similarly, although the actual number of deaths from cancer is increasing, survival rates are also increasing - in the twenty years from 1989 the overall cancer death rate fell by 23% for men and 17% for womenvii. As for adopting healthier habits, we have seen a gradual fall in tobacco smoking rates since 1985viii and in 2010 the Australian Sports Commission revealed that exercise participation rates are slowly increasingix.

Massive problems: Obesity and diabetes

But the overarching theme of the report was this: as a nation, we are getting fatter. The report shows us that 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 12 children are now considered obesex. That's nearly 3 million Australiansx. Even compared to other OECD countries, Australian adult obesity rates take the biscuit: Australian men (25.5%) have the second highest rate of obesity while our women rank fifth (23.6%)xi,xii. In 2007-08, 61% of adults were considered overweight or obesexiii.

The prevalence of diabetes more than doubled in the decade between 1989-90 and 2007-08, and it now affects 4.1% (898,800 people) of our populationxiv. Diabetes contributes to 1 in every 10 deaths and 1 in every 25 hospitalisations in Australiaxv. Diabetes is associated with eye cataracts, kidney complications, circulatory complications and morexvi. 85-90% of people suffering from diabetes fall into the Type 2 category, which is linked to lifestyle factorsxvii.

And while levels of CVD have fallen since 1968 and survival rates are higher than ever before, it still accounted for 33% of all deaths in 2009 and was Australia's biggest killerv. There is also an increasing trend in the number of people with end-stage kidney disease, with seven times more people today receiving regular dialysis treatment or having a functioning kidney transplant than in 1977xviii.

Eating the recommended daily serves of fruits and vegetables can help improve quality of life, maintain body weight and reduce risk of chronic diseases.

In 2007-08, the National Health Survey found that almost 60% of Australians aged 15 and over do not get sufficient exercisexix. Fewer than one in 10 over the age of 12 get their recommended intake of vegetables (five serves per day) and only half eat the recommended two serves of fruitxx. These unhealthy habits increase a person's risk of a critical illness and being overweightxvii.

The AIHW Australia's Health 2012 report shows us that there are still many areas of our health that we can improve on including our rising obesity and diabetes rates, poor diet, and inactivity. At Allianz, we understand that a healthy lifestyle goes a long way. By eating well and keeping active, you can avoid the health issues that go hand in hand with being overweight. But as nothing in life is ever truly predictable, choose to secure your family's financial future with life insurance and know that Allianz can help you and your family out financially in the event of death, serious illness or injury.

Get the full 2012 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

i AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health in brief, p.8

i AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health in brief, p.29

iii AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health in brief, p.5

iv AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health in brief, p.6

v AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health in brief, p.10

vi AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health in brief, p.11

vii AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health in brief, p.12

viii AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health in brief, p.13

ix Australian Sports Commission, 2010, Participation in exercise, recreation and sport,, p.1

x AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health in brief, p.16

xi AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health, p.213

xii OECD, Health at a Glance 2011, Graph 2.3.1 OECD Health Data 2011: Prevalence of obesity among adults, 2009 (or nearest year),, p.55

xiii AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health, p.212

xiv AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health, p.298

xv AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health, p.299

xvi AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health, p.304

xvii AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health in brief, p.17

xviii AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health in brief, p.20

xix AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health, p.203

xx AIWH, 2012, Australia's Health, p.200