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Most Australians have at least one preventable risk factor for chronic disease, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Risk factors contributing to chronic disease, provides a comprehensive picture of the lifestyle behaviours of Australians that can contribute to chronic diseases such as arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, depression, asthma and osteoporosis.

Diet is a very common risk factor for chronic disease, with over 90% of Australians failing to consume the recommended amounts of vegetables each day, and only half consuming enough fruit.

‘This is important because we know that people with low fruit and vegetable intake have higher risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes’, said AIHW spokesperson Ann Hunt.

The report also found that around 60% of Australians do not do enough physical activity to gain sufficient health benefits.

As a person’s number of risk factors increases, so too does their likelihood of having some chronic diseases.

For example, men with five or more risk factors are twice as likely to report depression than men with two or fewer risk factors.

Similarly, women with five or more risk factors were three times more likely to report stroke, and two and a half times more likely to report depression, than women with two or fewer risk factors.

More men than women have five or more risk factors (17% compared with 11%).

The report also shows that certain risk factors commonly occur together.

‘People who consume alcohol at risky levels are more likely to report daily smoking than those who don’t, and daily smoking is also more commonly reported by those who have insufficient levels of physical activity’, Ms Hunt said.

‘For people who are obese, high blood pressure is more common as a co-risk factor than for people who are not obese.’

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia’s health and welfare.

Canberra, 27 March 2012

Further information: Ms Ann Hunt, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1238, mob. 0418 271 395

Full report: Risk factors contributing to chronic disease