We drink too much, smoke too much . . .

A Southern District Health Board report says southerners are among the most unhealthy in the country.
A Southern District Health Board report says southerners are among the most unhealthy in the country.

Poll: Unhealthy southerners smoke like chimneys, binge drink alcohol and eat too many pies - but it seems there is one thing we do right: exercise.

A report compiled for the Southern District Health Board shows we are among the most unhealthy in the country, and it highlights areas our health board needs to address.

The health profile produced by an independent organisation gives the first snapshot of the current state of health of people living in the area, which includes Southland, Gore, Clutha, Queenstown, Central Otago, Dunedin and Waitaki.

The report says smoking remains the single largest cause of early death and ill health in the region but could soon be overtaken by obesity and nutritional conditions.

The rate of adult smokers in the region (15.6 per cent) is still higher than the national rate (15.1 per cent).

Our area also has the highest number of obese people in the country, with 29.8 per cent of all adults aged 15 and over classified as obese, compared with the national average of 28.4 per cent.

The profile states there are 13,000 morbidly obese people living in the area who are at serious risk of poor health and premature mortality.

Hospital admissions for conditions associated with alcohol use rose considerably during the past five years, the profile says.

More than a quarter of adults (25.1 per cent) in our population were reputed to be hazardous drinkers, which was significantly higher than the national average of 17 per cent and higher than any other region.

Nationally, more Maori and Pacific people were at risk because of the increased rates of smoking, hazardous alcohol drinking, obesity and poor nutrition, which was mirrored in the south, the profile says.

Deaths that should not have happened because of available healthcare services was twice as high in Maori than their non-Maori counterparts.

The report highlights diabetes as a major factor in the greater health loss among Maori people.

But the profile praises the area for its exercise efforts.

A 2011-12 health survey showed two thirds (67 per cent) of adults in the area said they met recommended physical exercise levels.

This was much higher than the national average.

The profile was undertaken to inform the board about the best opportunities for improving health and reducing inequalities.

"The DHB can thus decide on its top priorities and ensure resources are allocated appropriately," the profile says.

It was agreed at a board meeting yesterday that the SDHB would now review and update the profile on an annual basis.


The Southland Times