Teen obesity could shrink Australian lifespans

Feb 09, 2011

Health experts warned Wednesday that Australia's life expectancy could be sent into reverse after a new study found alarming levels of obesity among teenagers.

Nearly a quarter of 13-to-18-year-olds are overweight or obese, according to the survey of 12,000 secondary school , which said Australia was facing a "chronic disease time-bomb".

"If ever there was a wake-up call for Australians, this is it," said Professor Ian Olver from the Cancer Council of Australia, which commissioned the National Secondary Students' Diet and Physical Activity survey.

"As obese kids move into adulthood, the heightened risk of like cancer means previous gains in life expectancy may be reversed.

"We may see today's teenagers die at a younger age than their parents' generation."

The study found an "excessive prevalence of overweight and obesity among students", with 23.7 percent of the teenagers above their healthy weight.

Just 15 percent met national guidelines for an hour's physical activity every day, with girls more lax than boys and exercise levels diminishing with age.

Almost one in three students said they drank four or more cups of sugary or per week, and 43 percent ate fast food or takeaways at least once a week. Only 14 percent ate the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables.

Nearly half (47 percent) of students had three to four televisions in their home, with a further 17 percent reporting five or more TVs and 47 percent saying they had a set in their bedroom. Only one percent had no TV at all.

A majority (71 percent) engaged in "small-screen recreation" -- watching television and DVDs, and using computers -- for more than two hours on an average school day, exceeding national health guidelines.

"This piece of research confirms what we've feared for some time -- that the of today will grow up to be the heart attack victims of tomorrow," said Lyn Roberts, head of the National Heart Foundation, which co-commissioned the research.

Australia is one of the world's fattest nations, with the most recent National Health Survey classifying 25 percent of people aged 18 or older as obese, and 37 percent as overweight.

The total cost of , including health and productivity costs, was estimated to be around Aus$58 billion ($58 billion) a year in 2008, the most recent available figures.

Explore further: Link between alcohol outlets and assaults

Related Stories

Dietary habits of teenagers could be better

May 03, 2010

Adolescents, especially those who are not very physically active, eat too much sweet and fatty foods and not enough fruits and vegetables. This is the conclusion of a study from the Sahlgrenska Academy, at the University ...

Recommended for you

Link between alcohol outlets and assaults

1 hour ago

A study exploring the established link between off-premise alcohol outlets and the rate of assaults and injuries in Australia has found that large bottleshops and liquor chains contribute most substantially ...

Mobilising against hypertension in South Africa

2 hours ago

Lifestyle-related disease is on the rise in South Africa, including high blood pressure. An ingenious partnership involving Oxford University is putting the nation's extensive mobile phone network to work ...

Making an impact on concussions

2 hours ago

The crash test dummy head is weighted and hauled with a pulley up the track. After a final check of the instruments and a quick countdown, the helmeted head plummets into an inevitable collision, moving at ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.