Food and nutrition

Food and beverages (our diet) play an important role in overall health and wellbeing. Good dietary choices:

  • contribute to quality of life
  • help maintain a healthy body weight
  • protect against infection
  • reduce the risk of developing chronic health conditions and dying early.

Health conditions often affected by diet include

  • overweight and obesity
  • coronary heart disease
  • stroke
  • high blood pressure
  • some forms of cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes.

Many Australians, including those with disability, do not eat enough fruit and vegetables for optimum health and wellbeing. Based on self-reported data, around 1 in 2 (47%) people aged 2 and over with disability eat less than the recommended serves of fruit and vegetables (combined) each day, and are more likely than people without disability (41%) to not meet the guidelines (Figure 1).

Males aged 2 and over with disability (41%) are less likely than females aged 2 and over with disability (53%) to not eat enough fruit and vegetables (combined) each day.

Younger adults with disability are the least likely to eat enough fruit and vegetables each day. Around 1 in 2 (51%) younger adults (aged 18–64) with disability eat less than the recommended serves of fruit and vegetables (combined) each day, compared with around 1 in 3 (38%) older people (aged 65 and over) with disability and 1 in 3 (35%) children (aged 2–17) with disability.

As this is consistent with patterns for the overall population, this likely reflects age rather than disability status (see AIHW food and nutrition for more information).

There was little difference by disability group—around half of people aged 2 and over across all disability groups did not eat enough fruit or vegetables (ranging from 45% for those with sensory disability to 52% with psychological disability).

Sugar sweetened and diet drinks

Australian dietary guidelines recommend limiting intake of discretionary items, such as sugar sweetened drinks and diet drinks, as they tend to have little nutritional value. Limiting intake may help manage some health conditions.

Some Australians, including those with disability, consume sugar sweetened drinks and diet drinks daily. Based on self-reported data, an estimated:

  • 12% of people aged 2 and over with disability consume sugar sweetened drinks daily, compared with 8% of people without disability
  • 6.3% of people aged 2 and over with disability consume diet drinks each day, compared with 3.5% of people without disability (Figure 2).

Younger people (aged 2–64) with disability are more likely than older people (aged 65 and over) with disability to drink sugar sweetened and diet drinks daily:

  • 14% compared with 7% drank sugar sweetened drinks daily
  • 7% compared with 5% drank diet drinks daily (Figure 2).

References

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2019. Microdata: National Health Survey, 2017–18. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS. Findings based on AIHW analysis of the main unit record file (MURF).

NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) 2013. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.