How healthy is New South Wales?

Start a Quote

New South Wales has one of the lowest proportions of smokers in the countryi, a large and growing population, and death rates from major causes of disease below the national average.

Consuming more fruit and vegetables, smoking less, and exercising more have contributed to the positive health trends in NSW, but it seems that more needs to be done to counter the state-wide problem of expanding waistlines. Compared to the other states NSW is lagging behind on physical activity, with more than a quarter of the NSW residents leading sedentary lifestyles i.

Health snapshot

New South Wales is home to a third of Australia's population and remains the country's most populous state despite slowing population growth rates: in 2011, 7.21 million people were living in NSWii. New South Wales' locals enjoy a high life expectancy rate that continues to increase: in 2010, life expectancy for males was 79.6 years and 84.1 years for females; these life expectancies were an increase of 2.7 years and 1.7 years respectively since 2001iii.

Death rates from major causes of disease have also fallen significantly. Death rates for New South Wales are below the national averageiv, and can be attributed to people making healthier lifestyle choices - fewer people are smoking and gains have been made on adequate fruit and vegetable consumption.

However, not enough is being done to offset the state's growing overweight and obese population. In 2007, cardiovascular disease, encompassing coronary heart disease (accounting for 7,818 deaths), stroke (4,135), and heart failure (1,032), was the leading cause of death in New South Walesv.

New South Wales ranks first as the state with the highest proportion of people leading sedentary lifestyles.

Risky behaviour

While people living in New South Wales are leading more active lifestyles compared to 10 years ago, the latest Australian Health Survey reveals the state has the highest proportion of people who are inactive in Australiai. In 2011-2012, 38% of the adult population were classified as leading sedentary lifestylesi. Furthermore, New South Wales (94.4%) has the fourth largest proportion of people that do not eat the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables, trailing closely behind the Northern Territory (96%), Queensland (95%), and Victoria (94.8%)i.

In addition to physical inactivity and unhealthy eating, smoking behaviours and alcohol misuse are having negative impacts on the health of people living in New South Wales. While smoking rates are among the lowest in the nation, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease in the statevi and alcohol-induced conditions cause more than 1,220 deaths and 48,000 hospitalisations each yearvii. In 2011-2012, 19% of adults drink alcohol at levels that put their health in jeopardyi.

There is an increasing prevalence of chronic illnesses as a result of these unhealthy lifestyle behavioursviii. In 2007, lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer death in New South Wales, with 91% of lung cancer deaths attributed to smokingix.

Lifestyle changes, including the changing nature of work, are contributory factors to the challenges that face New South Wales' health system.

Health system challenges

New South Wales has the largest health system in the country and often performs above average compared with the overall Australian performancex. However, the rising incidence of chronic illness is putting pressure on the healthcare system and may reverse the state's longstanding trend of increased life expectancyxi. Other significant challenges facing New South Wales' health care system are an expanding and ageing population, and people leading busier but more sedentary lives.

In 2011-2012, the 65 years and older age group had the largest number of people leading inactive lifestylesi. Furthermore, they were the second largest group to be overweight and obesei. Promotion of healthy lifestyle choices in earlier stages of life is paramount to lowering the numbers of avoidable deaths and preventable hospitalisations in the state.

In addition to this, changes to people's lifestyles, such as a blurring of work hours and family time is increasing the likelihood of heightened levels of stress, which could have significant impacts on both physical and mental wellbeingxii.

iAustralian Bureau of Statistics, 2012, Australian Health Survey: First Results 2011-2012,

iiAustralian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2011,

iiiChief of Health Officer NSW, 2010, The health of the people of New South Wales, NSW Government,, p.iii

ivAustralian Bureau of Statistics, 2012, State and Territory Statistical Indicators, 2012,

vHealth Statistics NSW, Deaths by disease type, NSW Government,

viNSW Ministry of Health, 2012, NSW Tobacco Strategy, NSW Government,, p.2

viiChief of Health Officer NSW, 2010, The health of the people of New South Wales, NSW Government,, p.54

viiiNSW Department of Health, 2007, A new direction for NSW, NSW Government,, p.9

ixChief of Health Officer NSW, 2010, The health of the people of New South Wales, NSW Government,, p.94

xNSW Department of Health, 2009, Annual Report 2008-09, NSW Government,, p.28

xiNSW Department of Health, 2007, Future Directions for Health in NSW, NSW Government,, p.6

xiiNSW Department of Health, 2007, Future Directions for Health in NSW, NSW Government,, p.7