Risk factors for disease in Australia

Some of the preventable risk factors for disease in Australia are: 

Smoking represents 9% of the total disease burden in Australia, more than any other single risk factor. Just under 15% of Australians smoke daily, more men than women, and these rates are fortunately decreasing. Smoking is more common amongst the disadvantaged than the affluent. It is associated with several cancers and many other conditions. 

Drinking alcohol more than recommended is over 5% of the disease burden - 20% of Australians average drinking more than the recommended, although overall this risk is falling. It is however a risk factor more common with affluence than disadvantage. 


Over half of Australians do not get the minimum recommended amount of exercise. The disadvantaged are less likely to be sufficiently physically active than the affluent. 

High blood pressure is a risk factor for 1/3 of Australians and this may be related to weight but particularly to lack of exercise and diet, irrespective or weight. 

5% os Australians have diabetes (85% of them Type 2) and another 3% have impaired fasting glucose, and this is much more common with disadvantage, especially in Indiginous communities.  Half of these do not get the recommended amount of daily exercise. Overall, this condiiton is increasing and is predicted to become 10% of the population by 2040. 

Nutritional factors account for around 7% of the disease burden, according to the Bureau of Statistics. Half of Australians do not eat the recommended 2 serves of fruit daily, and and 93% do not eat the recommended 5 serves of vegetables. Yes, that is 9 out of 10 people do not eat enough vegetables recommended by the rather conservative government recommendations.

Teasing apart the risk of obesity and its consequences is not so easy because by itself, its not necessarily a risk factor, although it seems like it is in most statistics- this is more because of bias than anything. Obese people are less likely to be active, but if they are active and eat well (and about a third of them do), their risk falls dramatically. And many who are normal weight, have higher risk factors because they fall under the radar if they don’t exercise or eat well, or if they smoke, which is the case for many. 

These are the basics, and a lot of this is to do with disadvantage. However, affluence is not preventing most Australians to not eat enough vegetables, and half to not eat 2 pieces of fruit a day. And alcohol is a risk factor prevalent with affluence. 

This cannot be solved with telling people to exercise more and eat better, when causes are tied up with disadvantage- it is more complex than that. But those of us who can, can make sure we eat our vegetables, get enough basic exercise, and drink in moderation.