Yes, as Australian’s we are living longer, but our quality of life as we age is becoming poorer. At least half of us have a chronic health condition which impacts our quality of life, as well as those of our families and carers. This is one of the key findings of the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australia’s (AIHW) Health 2018 report.
A significant proportion of health conditions are caused by high body mass, poor diet and physical inactivity. All conditions that could be modified by diet and lifestyle. The chair of the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance, Professor Sanchia Aranda, said “As our Australian population ages, the number of us living with chronic disease is expected to balloon.“
A third of these chronic conditions are preventable. There is no clear coherent plan to tackle this issue in Australia. A poor focus on prevention, and no regard for the tsunami of health-related problems Australia is heading for. The financial burden to our country will be enormous.
Particularly disturbing is the data showing that the top disease burdens in girls and young women (5-44 years old) are anxiety disorders, and in young males suicide and self-inflicted injuries.
The three chronic conditions that contribute most to the disease burden in Australia are cancer, coronary heart disease and mental illness.
More of what the latest data is showing
One in two adult Australians, half of the adult population, has at least one of eight common chronic conditions:
- cardiovascular disease
- mental health conditions
- arthritis, back pain and osteoporosis
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Almost one in four Australians, that’s 20%, has two or more of these conditions!
Obesity continues to be a major risk factor for chronic diseases.
The report found 63% of adults were now overweight or obese, while the proportion who are “severely obese” has doubled.
Nearly half of Australians will experience a mental illness in their life
Around 45% of Australians aged 16–85 will experience a mental illness in their life – most commonly anxiety, substance use disorders (especially alcohol use) and mood disorders (especially depression).
Mental illness and substance use disorders are the third highest disease group after cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Females aged 15–24 account for nearly 3 in 5 community mental health care service contacts for eating disorders (58%) and hospitalisations for eating disorders (57%).
Most of us are overweight
Almost two-thirds (63%) of Australians aged 18 and over, and more than one-quarter (28%) of children aged 5–17 are overweight or obese.
Overweight and obesity are risk factors for a number of chronic conditions. Overweight or obese adults report higher rates of arthritis, back pain and other musculoskeletal problems, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases than adults in the normal weight range.
There is very little focus on the prevention of chronic disease in Australia
There is a high incidence of nutritional deficiencies in children and adults. We are a population that is overfed and malnourished. If as a minimum we addressed some of our populations underlying nutritional deficiencies, through high quality supplements that work – not these “gummy bear” supplements that are expensive lollies – then maybe our nations physical and mental health would be noticably better. Add in a nutrient dense diet that also feeds our beneficial gut flora and adequate exercise, what an amazing change that would make.
- Vitamin D deficiency and lack of testing of our population for vitamin D deficiency, is going to lead to an explosion of chronic health conditions in future
- Low iodine in women, especially pregnant women and children, has been a cause for concern in Australia for some years now. Yet few if any obstetricians or paediatricians are checking their patients for iodine
- Mental disorders like anxiety and depression have been shown to benefit from nutritional supplements like omega-3 oils, zinc, magnesium and B group vitamins
- Low selenium and zinc in our diet due to farming practices that have depleted our soils of these nutrients. Both are so important for our wellbeing
- The addiction of children and adults to electronic devices, causing mental and other health issues
- Feeding our gut flora with the fibre and nutrients that these bacteria need, would improve our physical and mental health
We are consuming, as a nation such poor quality, nutritionally depleted food. Worse still, feeding it to our growing and developing children, and we expect them to grow into healthy adults! Good quality food is sacrificed for convenience.
We need to realise what is happening to our own long-term health and the health of our children, is the result of our own choices. Parents need to be aware of the long-term health risk and burden that they may be putting onto their children.
Every one wants FAST and CONVENIENT. Unfortunately, that comes with a price on you and your family’s long-term wellbeing.
The only way to attain better health and to ensure a healthier outcome for your children, is to take responsibility. Make time for healthier choices, and realise that they will not be fast or convenient.