Unhealthy lifestyles placing burden on our health system

Morgan Liotta

7/03/2019 12:48:37 PM

New research shows that a significant proportion of non-communicable disease, disability and death in Australia is due to poor lifestyle choices.

One third of disability and death in Australia is attributable to leading an unhealthy lifestyle.
One third of disability and death in Australia is attributable to leading an unhealthy lifestyle.

The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health recently published a paper, ‘The health burden of preventable disease in Australia: A systematic review’ based on 11 studies conducted to obtain data on lifestyle-related risk factors.
Data was extracted based on proportion of deaths, years of life lost, years lived with disability, and disability-adjusted life years. While the methods used to estimate these areas varied significantly between the 11 studies, all found that a considerable proportion – one third – of disability and death is attributable to preventable lifestyle-related risk factors.
Prioritised risk factors include alcohol and tobacco use, high body mass index (BMI), unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.
Estimates of disability-adjusted life years attributable to each prioritised risk factor:

  • Unhealthy diet – 7.2–9.7%
  • Tobacco – 7.9–9%
  • Alcohol – 5.1–12.2%
  • High BMI – 5.5–8.3%
  • Physical inactivity – 1.2–5.5%
An unhealthy diet accounted for the greatest number of preventable deaths per year (27,500), while tobacco use and high BMI were both associated with at least 17,000 deaths per year.
The data revealed that lifestyle-related risk factors are highly prevalent in Australia, with 12% of the population using tobacco daily, 15% engaging in risky consumption of alcohol (more than 10 standard drinks during a single drinking episode), 52% of adults not doing enough physical activity, and 95% not consuming the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables.
Lifestyle-related risk factors place burden not only on the individual – attributing to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer – but also on the health system, according to the researchers.
’The consequences of chronic disease caused by these risk factors extends beyond the health of the individual to the costs of disease management incurred by the healthcare system ... and productivity impacts to businesses and households through reduced workplace productivity, homeā€based production and lost leisure time,’ the paper states.
The study results aim to promote management of modifiable lifestyle-related risk factors, to provide opportunities to improve the health of the Australian population and reduce burden on the healthcare system.
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