17 Nov 2018

Obesity up, smoking down in latest health survey

12:00 pm on 17 November 2018

New Zealanders are sadder and fatter - but smoking less.

Doctor measuring waist of obese man (stock shot).

Photo: 123RF

Data from the 2017-18 New Zealand Health Survey also found 88 percent of adults rated their own health as "good, very good or excellent" and 98 percent of parents said the same of their children.

The latest snapshot of the nation's health shows 8.6 percent of adults reported mental distress in the previous month - up from 7.6 percent the year before.

Ministry of Health chief adviser on population health Fran McGrath said this mirrored international trends.

"It may be real. It may be it's more acceptable to say those are some of the things you are feeling. We are certainly treating it seriously, anyway."

Ministry of Health and Addiction Inquiry was due to report back shortly, and was also rolling out more support services to schools, she said.

People living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas were 2.5 times more likely to experience psychological distress as those living in the least deprived areas.

Obesity tipped the scales at 32 percent of the adult population, up from 27 percent a decade ago.

Smoking rates have dropped from 20 percent of the population to 15 percent over the same period.

The biggest reduction was for 15 to 17-year-olds, with 3.6 percent smoking in the latest survey, compared with 16 percent in 2007.

"That's a really significant drop. It may be the cost - or it maybe it's no longer seen as something that's cool to do. That's the anecdotal feedback."

Around one in seven adults reported not visiting a GP due to cost in the past year, which was not significantly different from five years ago.

Dr McGrath said these so-called "first tier" statistics were very important for working out the high priority areas to address health problems and where to target government policy.

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