Lifestyle and risk factors of Australia’s males

The lifestyles males lead can influence how healthy they are in the short and long term. A lifestyle including exercise, a well-balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy body weight, may reduce the risk of poor health. Risk factors such as smoking tobacco, misusing alcohol and illicit substance use, or exposure to violence, may increase the likelihood of poor health.  

Physical activity

Regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy body weight and reduce the risk of many chronic conditions and injuries. Sport and other forms of physical activity can also improve mental wellbeing and may foster social networks which provide support and opportunities for development.

Sufficient physical activity for 18–64 year olds is defined in Australia’s Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines as accumulating at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week, and being active on most, preferably all, days. The guidelines also recommend adults complete at least two strength-based training sessions each week. The guidelines provide separate recommendations for children (ages 0–5 and 5–12), young people (ages 13–17), and older Australians (ages 65+). 

In this section, we refer to ‘sufficient activity’ for 18–64 year olds as completing at least 150 minutes of physical activity across 5 or more sessions each week. For males aged 65 and over, ‘sufficient activity’ is completing at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days each week (reported here as 5 or more days).

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Australian men aged 18–64 get enough exercise

In 2014–15, 49% of men aged 18–64 exercised sufficiently [1]. Exercise rates were highest among men aged 25–34 (56%) and lowest among men aged 45–54 (43%).

1 in 4 (27%) men aged 65 and over were sufficiently active.

Figure 1: Sufficient physical activity, men aged 18–64, by age-group, 2014-15

This is a vertical bar chart comparing the percentage of males who were sufficiently active at different age groups in 2014–15. The chart shows that men aged 25–34 were the most sufficiently active at 56%25, closely followed by those aged 18–24 at 55%25. Males aged 45–54 were the least sufficiently active, at 43%25.

Note: “Sufficiently active” here refers to having completed at least 150 minutes of physical activity over 5 or more sessions in the previous week. 

Source: ABS 2015 [1] (Table S1).

Overweight and obesity

Excess body weight, known as overweight and obesity, is a risk factor for many conditions, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnoea and osteoarthritis. Excess body weight can be measured using the body mass index (BMI).

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Australian men are overweight or obese

In 2014–15, 7 in 10 adult males in Australia (71%) were overweight or obese: 42% were overweight, and 28% were obese [1]. The proportion of males who are overweight or obese differs by population group [1, 2, 3]: 

  • 44% of young men (aged 18–24) are overweight or obese, compared with 82% of men aged 55–64
  • the rate of overweight and obesity in men does not vary substantially across areas of socioeconomic disadvantage, ranging from 69% to 73%
  • 75% of men living in Inner regional areas are overweight or obese, compared with 69% of men living in Major cities
  • 38% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men were obese in 2012–13, compared to 27% of non-Indigenous men, after adjusting for differences in age-structure. However, the overall rate of overweight and obesity was the same (70% for both).

The proportion who are overweight or obese differs between boys and men, 7 in 10 (71%) men aged 18 years and over are overweight or obese, compared with 3 in 10 (28%) boys aged 5–17.

Figure 2: BMI, boys aged 5–17 and men aged 18 and over, 2014–15

Notes:

  1. Boys and men have different cut-offs for BMI.
  2. Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding. 

Source: ABS 2015 [1] (Table S2).

While excess weight is commonly managed using dietary intervention and exercise, for those who are morbidly obese or who are obese and have other conditions related to their excess weight, weight loss surgery may be appropriate.

Weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery) is surgery that aims to help obese patients lose weight and lower the risk of medical problems associated with obesity. It restricts the amount of food a recipient can eat or alters the process of food digestion so that fewer calories are absorbed.

In 2014–15, males accounted for 21% of hospital separations for weight loss surgery (4,800 separations) compared to 79% for females (18,000 separations) [4].

For more information see Weight loss surgery in Australia 2014–15.

Tobacco smoking, alcohol and illicit drugs

Tobacco

Tobacco smoking is the single most preventable cause of poor health and death in Australia [5]. The main data sources reporting on tobacco smoking in Australia are the ABS National Health Survey’s (NHS), the National Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, and the AIHW National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS).

These surveys showed that:

  • based on the ABS NHS, in 2014–15, 16.9% of men aged 18 or over and 3.9% of boys aged 15–17 years smoked daily [1]
  • based on the AIHW NDSHS, in 2016, 14.6% of men aged 18 or over and 2.7% of males aged 14–19 smoked daily [6].

The proportion of males who smoke tobacco differs by age and between population groups [1, 3, 7]: 

  • 19.4% of younger men (aged 18–44) smoked daily, compared with 14.6% of older men (aged 45 or over)
  • 24.6% of men living in the lowest socioeconomic areas smoked daily, compared with 8.7% of men living in the highest socioeconomic areas
  • 25.0% of men living in Outer regional and remote areas smoked daily, compared with 15.5% of men living in Major cities
  • 43.9% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men smoked daily in 2014–15, compared to 17.0% of non-Indigenous men, after adjusting for differences in age-structure.

Alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for a variety of health problems, including liver and heart conditions, and poor mental health. It also contributes to accident and injury, such as motor vehicle accidents, physical violence and homicide. The main data sources reporting on alcohol consumption in Australia are the AIHW National Drug Strategy Household Survey and the ABS National Health Survey. Although these surveys use different methodologies, they show similar results.

Based on the AIHW NDSHS, in 2016 26% of men (ages 18+) were lifetime risky drinkers [6]. Half of men aged 18 and over (49%) exceeded the single occasion risky drinking threshold at least once in the last 12 months.

Based on the ABS NHS, in 2014–15, more than half of men aged 18 and over (57%) were exceeding the single occasion risk threshold, and one in four (26%) exceeded the lifetime risk guideline. The rates of lifetime and single occasion risky drinking vary by age-group (see Figure 3) [1].

Figure 3: Lifetime and single occasion risky drinking, men, by age-group, 2014–15

Lifetime risky drinking

This figure is comprised of two vertical bar charts, showing the percentage of lifetime risky drinkers, and single occasion risky drinkers, by age group, in 2014–15. The first chart shows that the percentage of lifetime risky drinking grew from 19%25 of men aged 18–24 to 31%25 of men aged 55–64. Men aged 75 and over had the lowest rates of lifetime risky drinking at 15%25.

Single occasion risky drinking

The second bar chart shows that the highest percentages of single occasion risky drinkers were among those aged 18–24 and 25–34, both 69%25. From 35 years of age the percentages of single occasion risky drinkers gradually decreased, and was lowest for those aged 75 and over at 12%25.

Note: Alcohol consumption risk levels based on 2009 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for the consumption of alcohol.

Source: ABS 2015 [1] (Table S3).

The proportion of men who exceed the lifetime alcohol risk guidelines varies by age and between population groups [1, 2, 3]: 

  • 19% of younger men (aged 18–24) exceed the lifetime alcohol risk guidelines, compared with 31% of men aged 55–64
  • 23% of men living in the lowest socioeconomic areas exceed the lifetime alcohol risk guidelines, compared with 29% of men living in the highest socioeconomic areas
  • 37% of men living in Outer regional and remote areas exceed the lifetime alcohol risk guidelines, compared with 24% of men living in Major cities
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men had the same rates of risky drinking as non-Indigenous men in 2012–13, with 29% of both groups exceeding the lifetime alcohol risk guidelines, after adjusting for differences in age-structure.

Illicit substances

Illicit substance use includes the use of illegal drugs (such as cannabis and heroin), or inappropriate use of prescription pharmaceuticals (such as sleeping pills) or other substances (such as naturally occurring hallucinogens). Illicit use of drugs causes death and disability and is a risk factor for many diseases. The effects of illicit drug use can be severe, for example leading to poisoning, heart damage, mental illness, self-harm, suicide and death. Illicit drug use is also associated with risks to users' families and friends and to the community. It contributes to social and family disruptions, violence, and crime and community safety issues. The AIHW National Drug Strategy Household Survey reports on illicit drug use in Australia.

In 2016, 18% of Australian males aged 14 years and over had used an illicit drug in the previous 12 months (‘recent use’) [6].

The pattern of illicit substance use differs by age groups—32% of men aged 20–29 had recently used illicit drugs, compared with 7.9% of men aged 60 or over.

Violence

Violence is the intentional threat or actual use of physical force or power against oneself, another person, or a group, that results in injury, death, psychological harm, abnormal growth or deprivation. The main data source for violence is the ABS Personal Safety Survey.

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Australian men have experienced violence since they turned 15

In 2012, for men aged 18 or over [8]:

  • 49% had experienced violence since the age of 15—48% had experienced physical violence and 4.5% had experienced sexual violence
  • 8.7% had experienced violence in the last 12 months, with the highest rates for men aged 18–24 (24%), and the lowest for men aged 55+ (2.2%)
  • 5.3% had experienced partner violence since the age of 15
  • 7.8% had been stalked in their lifetime
  • 14% had experienced emotional abuse by a partner since the age of 15
  • 18% had experienced sexual harassment during their lifetime.

References

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2015a. National Health Survey: First results 2014–15. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
  2. ABS 2013a. National Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey 2012–13: First results. Cat. 4727.0.55.001
  3. ABS 2015b. National Health Survey: 2014–15. Microdata (TableBuilder). ABS.
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2017a. Weight loss surgery in Australia 2014–15: Australian hospital statistics. Cat. no. HSE 186. Canberra: AIHW.
  5. AIHW 2012. Risk factors contributing to chronic disease. Cat. no. PHE 157. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
  6. AIHW 2017b. National Drug Strategy and Household Survey 2016: Key findings online data tables. Canberra: AIHW.
  7. AIHW 2017. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health performance framework 2017: supplementary online tables. Cat. no. WEB 170. Canberra: AIHW.

  8. ABS 2013b. Personal Safety, Australia, 2012. ABS cat. no. 4906.0. Canberra: ABS.