The National Health Survey (updated on 8 December) shows that mental and behavioural conditions are the most common long-term health issues currently experienced by Australians.
The survey reveals that mental and behavioural conditions affect 4 million people (17.5% of the population) and one in nine adults (11.7%) have experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress in 2014-15.
This doesn’t surprise me and it’s probably not news to anyone who regularly observes data on the issue and/or is involved in providing psychological or health services. It’s good, though, to have figures like this shown in context – against figures for other common health conditions – so that people see mental health issues with the same validity as diabetes, high blood pressure or asthma.
Aside from mental and behavioural conditions, the survey lists nine other common long-term health conditions experienced by Australians in 2014-15.
The survey also lists major health risk factors among Australians including: smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, poor diet and a lack of exercise.
About these health risk factors, the National Health survey reveals the following.
Rates of daily smoking have continued to drop, to 14.5% (2.6 million) of adults smoking in 2014-15, compared with 16.1% in 2011-12 and 22.4% in 2001. Proportionally, more men smoke daily than women (16.9% and 12.1%, respectively). Smoking rates for young adults (18-44 years) have decreased to 16.3% in 2014-15 from 28.2% in 2001. Rates of daily smoking are higher in the Outer Regional and Remote areas of Australia (20.9%), compared with Inner Regional areas (16.7%) and Major Cities (13.0%).
In 2014-15, 63.4% of Australian adults were overweight or obese (11.2 million people). This is similar to the prevalence of overweight and obesity in 2011-12 (62.8%) and an increase since 1995 (56.3%). Around one in four (27.4%) children aged 5-17 years were overweight or obese, similar to 2011-12 (25.7%).
In 2014-15, 17.4% of adults consumed more than the recommended two standard drinks per day on average, exceeding the National Health and Medical Research Council lifetime risk guidelines. A quarter of men and one in ten women exceeded the lifetime risk guidelines.