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Study: Health Costs of a Sedentary Lifestyle

Study: Health Costs of a Sedentary Lifestyle
We Australians like to think of ourselves as an active, outdoors loving nation, but statistics are proving this healthy image to be a myth. In 2007-2008, a National Health Survey discovered that over 60 percent of Australians were either overweight or obese. Things have not improved since then: today, Australia ranks as one of the most obese countries in the world. Our increasingly sedentary lifestyle is taking a huge toll on our health and the cost of health care. It is an issue we can no longer afford to ignore.

Health Costs of a Sedentary Lifestyle

Recent studies and reports by Monash University outline some shocking statistics about obesity in Australia:
  • More than 17 million Australians are classified as overweight or obese.
  • Over 4 million Australians are clinically obese as measured by body mass index (BMI).
  • Obesity in Australia has reached epidemic proportions.
  • If current trends continue, by 2020, 80 percent of Australians will be overweight or obese.
Obesity is far more than just a matter of appearances. It is a vital health concern for all Australians. Now the leading cause of premature death in Australia, it overtook smoking in 2006, when it was found to be responsible for 8.7 percent of all deaths in this country as opposed to smoking's 6.5 percent. Some of the diseases directly caused by obesity include:
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Some cancers.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Hypertension.
  • Sleep Apnoea

According to the Australian government's Department of Health and Aging, "regular physical activity reduces cardiovascular risk in its own right and also improves levels of cardiovascular risk factors such as overweight, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes." Half an hour per day, five days per week of moderate exercise is all that is necessary, but it is a goal only an estimated 15 % of the population achieves.

Economic Costs of a Sedentary Lifestyle

A 2010 study reported in The Age revealed that obesity cost Australia over $56 billion per year, with direct health care costs amounting to $21 billion and government subsidies accounting for the rest. Although exact statistics for related costs are unavailable, a recent Canadian study using an economic modelling algorithm indicated that the cost of decreased productivity due to poor health and time taken off work could be almost double the direct health care costs.

While the economic costs of a sedentary lifestyle are secondary to the devastating health costs, together they add up to a problem of monumental proportions. Health officials throughout the developed world are now sounding the alarm. It's up to us to listen and take action.

Topic: Obesity

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