New national research launched this week reveals that Australians lack the knowledge and motivation needed to take charge of their own health, and instead rely heavily on healthcare professionals for advice and treatment to stay healthy.
Measuring the health IQ and behaviours of the nation, the research revealed that a surprising amount of
Australians don’t know what they need to do when it comes to nutrition, exercise and self-care.
The research was released by German-based pharmaceutical and life sciences company Bayer and found:
• One in three doesn’t know the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables needed to
maintain good health. These people are also more likely to rate their health as very poor.
• More than half incorrectly assume that low-fat labelled foods have the same or lower levels of
sugar than full-fat versions.
• One quarter of men don’t know how much daily exercise is needed to reduce their risk of
Nutrition Australia CEO Lucinda Hancock said self-care is essential in ensuring Australians live better, longer lives.
“Eating well plays a huge role in this. However, less than 5 per cent of Australians eat enough fruit or vegetables and over a third of our daily kilojoule intake comes from junk foods, soft drink and alcohol,” she said.
“With 60 per cent of Australians having low levels of health literacy, it is often the case that people do not know the best decisions to make to ensure healthy nutrition.”
The research was released on International Self-Care Day (24 July) in an effort to encourage all Australians to take action in learning about healthier choices, including how to select and prepare nutritious meals to improve their well-being.
But it’s not just knowledge that is stopping Australians from caring for their health. While the majority (65 per cent) of Australians believe that self-care is important, two-thirds face barriers to self-care including lack of motivation (23 per cent), money (16 per cent) and time (14 per cent).
When exploring the drivers for why Australians want to stay healthy, the research shows that people prioritise the here and now. People want to stay healthy to feel good mentally (57 per cent) and physically (62 per cent), but preventing illness is seen as a much lower priority, with only 39 per cent wanting to achieve this as a result of being healthy.
The research further reveals that Australians rely heavily on healthcare professionals for advice and
treatment to stay healthy, with over half listing their general practitioner (GP) as their first port of call for information.
Education of basic self-care solutions by individuals can enhance consultation visits. A staggering one in five Australians sees their GP to treat a simple illness like a cold, suggesting a lack of understanding of self-care solutions. Young Australians (18 to 24 years old) are amongst the age group most likely to do this.
Additionally, Australians at higher risk of chronic diseases (i.e. those over the age of 50) seem to be paying attention to health promotion messages and are taking action to get regular health checks like blood pressure (94 per cent) and cholesterol (85 per cent).
“As doctors, it is fantastic to see that so many Australians are engaging seriously with their health,” said general practitioner Dr Ginni Mansberg.
“However, with one in two Australians living with chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, doctors need to be doing more than simply detecting diseases. We also need to be proactive in preventing them altogether,” she said.
“Of course, GPs play an important role in prevention, but we can’t do it alone. I’d love to see every Australian commit to taking more steps to look after themselves. Small steps can make an enormous difference and every little bit counts."
On the back of the surprisingly low health IQ of Australians, Bayer is launching Health Yourself, a campaign urging Australians to put the “self” back into self-care and prioritise it in their everyday life.
“The Health Yourself campaign aims to address the challenge of low health literacy and barriers to self-care,” said Mark Sargent, general manager ANZ Consumer Health, Bayer Australia and New Zealand.
“We hope to do so by raising awareness of the importance of self-care, encouraging the public to take action in looking after their own health, and offering suggestions on how they can be supported in this process.”