Australia has long been known as a healthy nation thanks to its citizens’ passion for sports and active, outdoor lifestyles. In fact, Australia is a popular destination with British expats seeking a healthier lifestyle in a warmer climate. Unfortunately, a recent survey by international health insurer Bupa is likely to shake this perception.
The survey, which covered 13,000 people from 12 countries, found 60% of Australians are overweight according to their body mass index measurements (an indicator of body fat calculated in proportion to a person’s height and weight). Only the US and Saudi Arabia showed higher obesity rates. Australia ranked third alongside Britain.
What’s more, Australians themselves don’t seem to see the problem. Only a third of the 1,200 Australians surveyed said they felt they were overweight. Based on this, as many as a half of all overweight Australians may not realize they are overweight.
The findings went beyond weight, however, to include information regarding alcohol abuse and mental health. Bupa’s survey found three quarters of Australians consume alcohol regularly and one fifth had suffered from depression. Australia came in second to Britain in terms of alcohol abuse and had the highest rates of depression. China, New Zealand and Saudi Arabia had the next highest level of depression–Thailand reported the lowest rate at just 7%.
Dr. Umberto Boffa, Head of Bupa Medical Services in Australia, attributed the lack of health awareness to the fact that life expectancy is increasing in Australia. This has led to a false sense of security even as the incidence rates for chronic diseases, such as diabetes, are on the rise. “The rate of heart attack is going down, the rate of stroke is going down, yet we’ve never been fatter,” he said.
Boffa added that the main culprit for Australia’s health crisis was “the tyranny of normality.” People assume being overweight is normal, which in turn leads to complacency about their diet.
Mark Montanana is an online marketer who left his native Spain for Scotland over five years ago. His main interests include keeping healthy, travelling and experiencing new cultures. He blogs on his life abroad at http://my.telegraph.co.uk/spanishexpat, and readers can also follow him on Twitter http://twitter.com/MarkMontanana.