Chew on these health facts

Latest health survey information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) makes for sober reading. And while we’re talking sober, Australians are actually drinking less! More on that later.

Key findings of the 2017-18 National Health Survey included a significant rise in the number of Australians living with chronic health conditions.

Given our ageing population, this finding is probably not surprising.

Just under half (47.3%) of Australians had one or more chronic conditions in 2017-18, an increase from 2007-08 when two-fifths (42.2%) of people had one or more chronic conditions.

Chronic health conditions are persistent conditions that impact the quality of life and can lead to premature mortality.

Chronic health conditions experienced in Australia in 2017-18 were:

  • Mental and behavioural conditions - 4.8 million people (20.1%)
  • Back problems - 4.0 million people (16.4%)
  • Arthritis - 3.6 million people (15.0%)
  • Asthma - 2.7 million people (11.2%)
  • Diabetes mellitus- 1.2 million people (4.9%) comprising Type 1 Diabetes - 144,800 people (0.6%)
  • Type 2 Diabetes - 998,100 people (4.1%)
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease - 1.2 million people (4.8%) 
  • Osteoporosis - 924,000 people (3.8%)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - 598,800 people (2.5%)
  • Cancer - 432,400 people (1.8%)
  • Kidney disease - 237,800 people (1.0%)

If you’d like to learn about managing chronic pain, you can visit the Chronic Pain Australia website.

Painful thinking?

Speaking of chronic pain, did you know it is all in your mind?

Well, that’s the studied opinion of British osteopath, Nick Potter, the so-called “Mr Fixit” who people such as Sir Elton John, comedian Michael McIntyre and former British first lady Samantha Cameron - as well as many elite athletes, call when they can’t get out of bed.

According to a review in The Times newspaper, his new book, The Meaning of Pain claims that not only are people doing their pain management wrong, but the whole of Western medicine is doing pain wrong.

According to the review, Potter draws on neurological research, showing that once you have had pain, it can become burnt into your neural pathways.

The following is a passage from the review, starting with a quote from Potter.

“‘Your nerves can torture you by misfiring pain signals.’ It is what he calls a “software”, rather than hardware, problem. And you are likelier to suffer if you have three other conditions: psychological stress, inflammatory problems (often caused by obesity, poor diet and stress) and weak muscles. To truly get better, you need to work on some or all of them — and when he says work, he means make a significant commitment, not the desultory bit of physio that most people do.”

On your bike

The ABS survey says Australians aged 15-plus exercised 42 minutes per day on average, the largest part consisting of walking for transport and walking for exercise (24.6 minutes).

However, only a minority met the physical activity guidelines with 1.9% of 15-17 year olds, 15.0% of 18-64 year olds and 17.2% of 65-plus year olds, meeting the 2014 Physical Activity Guidelines.

And this is where we can all improve; the ABS found that just over a quarter (26.1%) of older adults (65 years and over) engaged in 30 minutes of exercise on 5 or more days in the last week.

Healthy or not?

The ABS survey media statement didn’t offer that judgement except to say that over half (56.4%) of Australians aged 15-plus considered themselves to be in excellent or very good health, while 14.7% reported being in fair or poor health. This has remained constant over the last 10 years.

That might be good news, but mental illness remains a big problem with around one in eight (13.0% or 2.4 million) adults experiencing high or very high levels of psychological distress, an increase from 2014-15 (11.7% or 2.1 million).

Final drinks!

Would you believe we’re drinking less? One in six (16.1%) persons aged 18-plus consumed more than two standard drinks a day, exceeding the lifetime risk guideline. Thankfully, this continued to decline from 17.4% in 2014-15 and 19.5% in 2011-12.

Men continue to guzzle more than women but seem to be slowing down.

More than one in five (23.7%) men and around one in eleven women (8.8%) exceeded the lifetime risk guideline in 2017-18.

While men were more likely than women to exceed the guideline, the proportion of men exceeding declined since 2014-15 (25.8%).

For women, the rate remains largely unchanged (9.3%).

Men were more likely to exceed the single occasion risk guideline than women, with 54.2% and 30.5% consuming more than four standard drinks, respectively.

However, the proportion of men exceeding the guideline continued to decline from 56.8% in 2014-15, while for women, the proportion remained constant (31.7% in 2014-15).

Out-of-pocket Health Costs campaign

Don’t forget, National Seniors is continuing our campaign to reduce out-of-pocket health costs.

You can sign up to the campaign or share a story about your own experiences with out-of-pocket costs, below.

Learn more