23 Dec 2014

Survey reveals nation's health

8:35 am on 23 December 2014

The health of most New Zealanders is improving but major problems remain, according to the latest annual Health Survey.


Photo: AFP

The survey results show a third of young adults drink alcohol at a level that is hazardous to their health.

The Health Ministry said the report provided a snapshot of the health of New Zealanders through the publication of 48 key indicators.

It said nine out of ten adults rated their health as good, very good or excellent, and that nearly all parents (98 percent) considered their children to be in good health.

Smoking still an issue

Among the key problems highlighted, however, were Maori smoking rates - which remained high.

It said Maori had the highest current smoking rate, with 41 percent smoking at least monthly.

The survey said this had not changed significantly since 2006-2007 when 42 percent of Maori smoked.

Overall, smoking in adults dropped from 20 percent in 2006-2007 to 17 percent in 2013-2014.

Smoking among those aged 15 to 17 had halved since 2006-2007.

The survey report said smoking rates were strongly related to socio-economic deprivation, with adults living in the most deprived areas three-and-a-half times as likely to be current smokers as adults in the least deprived areas.

Men highlighted in alcohol figures

Hazardous drinking was highest among young people, peaking in the 18-24 year age group.

One third of this age group were hazardous drinkers, an improvement on 2006-2007 when the corresponding figure was 43 percent.

Brewers say beer should not be singled out by the alcohol harm campaign.

Photo: PhotoAlto

Men were twice as likely to have hazardous drinking patterns than women, and nearly a third of all Maori adults were hazardous drinkers, according to the findings.

Hazardous drinking increased for all adults aged 45 to 54, from 12 percent in 2006-2007 to 16 percent in the latest survey period.

Obesity rates remain high

The survey said excess weight was a leading contributor to a number of health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some types of cancer.

It said rates of obesity were similar to the previous year (29.9 percent compared to 30.6 percent).

Three in ten adults - 1,069,000 people - were obese in the latest year.

The obesity rate peaked in the 45-64 age group. Rates were highest in Pacific adults (67 percent), with 46 percent of Maori obese, while one in seven Asian adults was obese.

The survey said one in ten children aged two to 14 years - 79,000 children - were obese.

There had been no significant change in the adult and child rates since 2011-12, but more data was needed to confirm whether this represents a slowing in the rise of obesity rates.

GP visits

The survey said more than three million people visited a GP in the last year.

It said confidence and trust in GPs was high, but one in three adults living in the most deprived areas had an unmet need for primary, or community, healthcare.

Adults and children living in the most deprived areas were also more likely to miss out on prescription items because of cost.

Maori had poorer health and more unmet need for healthcare, according to the survey.

Only half of adults with natural teeth visited a dental health care worker in the past year.

The report says adults aged 25 to 34 were the least likely of all age groups to have visited a dentist in the past year.


Photo: AFP

It said the percentage of children who visited a dental health care worker in the past year was 84 percent, up from 76 percent seven years ago.

But around 35,000 children had teeth extracted in the past year because of tooth decay.

Dental Association Chief executive David Crum said that was shocking: "Obviously they will have been in pain, most of them, and it's a huge cost to the country in resources.

"A number of those kids would have had general anaesthetics to have that done. One of the reasons that the association so strongly advocates water fluoridation is to prevent this sort of thing."

Chair of the General Practice Council of the Medical Association Kate Baddock said a finding in the survey about rising rates of diagnosed mental health conditions was related to the increasing pressures of everyday life.

"Unless we all step back and say well actually we need to move more slowly, we need to slow down the pace of change, we need to be able to adapt better to the rate of change that we have in our lives.

"Until we can do that we are going to see increasing rates of mental distress."

Dr Baddock said the overall survey findings showed the health system was doing well, but needed to continue to do more in certain key areas.

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