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Australians are international leaders in self-deception

Australians are international leaders in self-deception

Australia is a nation in denial about its obesity epidemic, according to an international report released today.

Frightening new statistics from the international Bupa Health Pulse Survey 2011* highlight Australians are failing to recognise that they are overweight and don't understand the health implications of their lifestyle.

According to the research, only one third of Australians consider themselves overweight, yet their Body Mass Index (BMI)** revealed six in ten are overweight or obese. Internationally, the BMI figures position Australia in third place behind the Americans and Saudis as one of the most obese nations in the survey.

While most Australians agree that they would like to lose weight (51 per cent) and exercise more (62 per cent), a startling 45 per cent admitted to doing little or no regular exercise.***

Dr Bert Boffa, Head of Medical Services for Bupa, said: "The results highlight a serious disparity between our perception of ourselves, and the reality of our behaviour, which is leading many Australians firmly down the path of chronic disease."

The international survey of health attitudes and trends across 12 countries also revealed further contradictions in attitudes to health and wellbeing.

Despite 76 per cent of Australians believing it is the individual's responsibility to adopt preventive health measures they don't appear to be demonstrating this in similar numbers.

For example, only 28 per cent of Australians eat five or more servings of fruit or vegetables most days; and Australians are the second biggest consumers of alcohol, just behind the Brits.

"The research found the biggest barrier to Australians making healthier lifestyle choices was personal motivation. Time and expense were also cited as other important factors. We need to arm Australians with better tools and information to help them make better informed health choices," Dr Boffa said.

"With the amount of online health information available, the question remains whether we are using it to our advantage or whether it's making us feel more overwhelmed and confused."

Preeminent social analyst and commentator David Chalke said: "The results are alarming, particularly when we look at them in the context of Australia's ageing population and a continuing emphasis by government and other organisations on preventive health measures."

Panel of experts to discuss findings

A panel of Australia's leading commentators and experts on health and wellness trends chaired by media personality Mia Freedman will discuss the survey results at a breakfast event in Sydney on Wednesday 14 September 2011. The discussion will cover the topics of health literacy, hypersensitivity to health messages, and how Australia stacks up against the rest of the world regarding chronic illness, exercise, diet, smoking and drinking.

The panellists will include: preeminent social analyst and commentator David Chalke; Head of Medical Services for Bupa Australia Dr Bert Boffa; Celebrity fitness trainer, nutrition expert and popular TV personality Michelle Bridges; and Acting CEO of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency Dr Lisa Studdert.

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Note to Editors

*A total of 13,373 respondents were interviewed across 12 markets using online panels between 22 April and 23 May 2011. Respondents were all panel members and therefore had indicated their willingness to participate in surveys. Panel members are from the general public and quotas were set to make all data nationally representative of the offline population where possible. Weighting was also conducted on this basis. The international report focused on four key areas: the health status of people and their families, health influences, health information and responsibility for health.

Interviews took place in the following countries: Great Britain (2001 respondents), Spain (1048), Australia (1203), Mexico (1046), India (1025), US (1000), Brazil (1001), China (1005), New Zealand (1000), Saudi Arabia (1025), Thailand (1000), Hong Kong (1019).

** The body mass index (BMI) is a statistical measure of body weight based on a respondents stated weight and height. Though it does not actually measure the percentage of body fat, it is used to estimate a healthy body weight based on a person's height.

*** Less than two hours of exercise per week.

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