This report presents comparisons over time for different age groups for key risk factors for health including overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, poor diet, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. These are key risk factors for diseases such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease. Monitoring patterns in these risk factors is important to help guide and target preventive health interventions. 

Good news

  • Smoking rates declined between 1989-90 and 2007-08, particularly among younger people. Smoking is likely to continue to decline into the future because the smoking behaviour of younger age groups is generally predictive of future smoking behaviour.
  • From 1984 to 2008, the proportion of young people aged 12 to 17 who drank alcohol in the previous week decreased.


  • Between 1995 and 2007-08, measurements of body mass index and waist circumference among adults both moved towards higher values, indicating a population shift towards higher risk. This resulted in increases in the rates of overweight/obesity for all ages.
    • Overweight/obesity increased for virtually all age groups between 1995 and 2007-08 based on detailed analysis of a range of different measures, with the largest increases for females aged 12 to 44.
  • Between 1989-90 and 2007-08, the proportion of adults who were physically inactive remained high at over 50% for all age groups and increased further for many age groups.
    • The proportion of young people aged 15 to 17 who were physically inactive also increased between 1995 and 2007-08.
  • The vast majority of adults and people aged 12 to 17 did not eat enough vegetables in 2004-05 and this had increased further by 2007-08 for most age groups.
  • The proportion of people aged 18 or over who drank at 'risky/high-risk levels' increased between 1995 and 2007-08 in each age group, apart from men aged 75 or over.
Table S1: Summary of changes over time in risk factors by broad age groups
  12–17 18–44 45–64 65+
Overweight Rate rising Rate rising Rate rising Rate rising
Physically inactive Rate rising Rate rising# ~ Rate rising#
Insufficient vegetables Rate rising Rate rising Rate rising Rate rising#
Smoking Rate falling Rate falling Rate falling Rate falling
Excessive alcohol Rate falling Rate rising Rate rising Rate rising#

# Most of the age/sex results within this broad age group are increasing; see Table 7.1 for more details.
~ No change.