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10 Jul, 2014

Australians drink, smoke less but getting fatter and worry more: study

SYDNEY, July 9 (Xinhua) — Australians are smoking and drinking less but are getting fatter and more anxious, according to a new study released on Wednesday.

The study by Roy Morgan Research blames unemployment rates for Australia’s high anxiety.

Roy Morgan chief executive Michele Levine told the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) there has been a marked reduction in smoking and alcohol consumption.

“It’s to do with the fact there’s been a very strong anti- smoking campaign and anti-smoking lobby with increased taxes and a focus on plain labels,” she said.

“The reduction in alcohol consumption … I think we’ve actually seen, again, a fairly strong anti-drink-driving campaign. And there’s been enough information to get people to curb their drinking. The only one form of alcohol that’s actually increasing is cider.”

But three in five Australian adults are overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) over 25.

“And it’s interesting because we’ve actually become a nation of weight watchers,” Levine said.

“We worry about our weight. We think about our weight. We say that we’re monitoring the calories we eat and yet our weight continues to increase.

“We’ve got to monitor in a study like this fairly consistent levels of good eating and exercise and activity.

“Our forms of activity are actually … we’re doing quite well. We’ve stopped doing so much organised sport but our level of engagement in physical activity like doing exercises and going for walks and going to the gym, that’s actually taken off.

“Some of the clues in all of this data I suppose remain to be uncovered, but things like being overweight, it’s largely an older person’s issue.”

Levine said the increasing anxiety levels is the biggest concern, especially among young people.

“The really big increase there has been around anxiety. About 20 percent of young people have actually expressed feeling anxiety in the last 12 months, but other people, it’s increased from something like 7 or 8 percent seven years ago to about 15 or 16 percent today.

“It was increasing gently but it really starts to pick up around 2012, and that’s the time also that unemployment and underemployment really started to kick up. When you put the two trend lines on a chart, they correlate quite strongly.

“Sometimes these things can be just like weird correlations or they’re a function of something else, so we looked at the data and we actually found that people who are unemployed or underemployed, such as people who’ve got a part-time job that really need more work, are 62 percent more likely than people who are employed to report anxiety.

“So there’s definitely something going on there that we really have to understand and take notice of.”