Physical health status
Physical health relates to the functioning of the physical body. Some physical health factors are beyond the control of an individual, such as age, sex and genetic make-up; others relate to lifestyle, diet and physical activities (ABS 2001, AIHW 2021).
People’s lifestyles, diets and physical activity patterns change once they enter prison, and this can lead to changes that influence health. Engaging in physical activity can improve physical health through reducing the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, chronic health conditions, some cancers and depression (Warburton et al. 2006; WHO 2022). The nutritional value of a diet can also have an impact on physical health and strength as well as on weight (Hannan-Jones and Capra 2016). There are also mental, emotional and social benefits to physical wellbeing (Eime et al. 2013).
This section presents data from the NPHDC on self-assessed physical health, physical activity and weight changes in custody, as well as on incidents of physical and sexual assaults in custody which can harm physical and mental health.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2001) Measuring wellbeing: frameworks for Australian social statistics, ABS website, accessed 6 June 2023.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2021) Australian burden of disease study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2018, AIHW website, accessed 17 April 2023.
Eime RM, Young JA, Harvey JT, Charity MJ and Payne WR (2013) ‘A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for children and adolescents: informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport’, The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10:98, doi.org/10.1186/1479-5868-10-98.
Hannan-Jones M and Capra S (2016) ‘What do prisoners eat? Nutrient intakes and food practices in a high-secure prison’, British Journal of Nutrition, 115(8):1387–1396, doi.org/10.1017/S000711451600026X.
Warburton DE, Nicol CW and Bredin SS (2006) ‘Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence’, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 174(6):801–809, doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.051351.
WHO (World Health Organization) (2022) Physical Activity, factsheet, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.