SHOALHAVEN and the Illawarra you are too fat, highly anxious and have high blood pressure.
That was the overriding finding from a recent study by the University of Wollongong and Illawarra Shoalhaven Medicare Local (ISML).
According to the study 65.9 per cent of Shoalhaven, Kiama and Wollongong are obese, anxious and suffering from high blood pressure.
One of the study’s authors and ISML population health and workforce co-ordinator Abhijeet Ghosh said people in this region are much worse off than the Australian national average.
“We specifically found that for the Nowra, Bomaderry and Jervis Bay regions, there was a link between the high socio-economic disadvantage and these findings,” he said.
“There can be a platter of reasons why this is the case and we are now moving into finding out what they are.
“An example could be people travelling long distances for work and not having a proper work/life balance.
“High fat and high sugar diets are also a huge problem,” he said.
The study’s findings were no surprise to Nowra dietician and nutritionist Rebecca McPhee.
Ms McPhee is the go-to dietician for a number of local GPs who diagnose patients with health issues such as high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.
“If people are highly anxious it can impact on their eating habits, but it can also go the other way,” she said.
“High levels of anxiety and depression can cause people to be underweight too.
Ms McPhee relates the study’s findings to a lack of exercise and healthy diet.
“We have more health practitioners than ever before, but we have an obesity epidemic. There should be a tax on junk food.”
Ms McPhee said it boils down to choice and prioritising for health.
“The sad thing is for a lot of people carrying extra weight it’s not a huge priority to lose it until it impacts on their life.
“Carrying extra weight is becoming the norm, but it’s a silent killer.”
The study found in the Shoalhaven, almost 12 per cent of people suffered from hypertension and five per cent suffered from anxiety disorders.
Mr Ghosh found anxiety and mental health was a big issue in the Shoalhaven.
“The significant unemployment rates in the Nowra and Bomaderry region demonstrate the high level of disadvantage,” he said.
“We are investigating the extent of the connection between these factors and mental and physical health.
“What is required to overcome these issues is an integrated approach to health and wellbeing, involving health practitioners, organisations, the community and government.”
Mr Ghosh said all these conditions are preventable and overcoming them would significantly reduce the burden on the hospital systems.