Australia - Aussies eat more, smoke less: review..

December 2, 2009 - The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare collects data from a new sample of about 1,000 general practitioners (GPs) each year, looking for differences from the 1999-2000 financial year to 2008-09.

Australians are fatter but are smoking less and the risky consumption of alcohol has remained stable over the past decade.

Nationwide research into what drives people to see their GP has also found high blood pressure was the most common health woe, while check-ups relating to diabetes and cholesterol were also on the rise.

"There were increases in patient requests for prescriptions, immunisations, blood tests, test results and administrative actions such as medical certificates," according to the Bettering the Evaluation And Care of Health (BEACH) 10-year review.

"In 2008-09, patients also presented more often about their diabetes, depression and hypertension."

Meanwhile, rates of presentations for ear pain, throat complaints and headaches fell about 25 per cent over the period.

The research also showed the prevalence of overweight people who went to see their GP rose from 33 per cent to 36 per cent. The number of obese jumped from 19 per cent to 25 per cent over the 10 years.

Those who smoke daily decreased from 19 per cent to 15 per cent while "at-risk alcohol consumption" remained stable at 26 per cent.

Children got no fatter, with rates of overweight and obesity among those aged under 17 stable at 11 per cent obese and 17 per cent overweight.

The report said Australia's population increased by about 14 percent over the decade, to more than 21 million, and more than 85 per cent of the population visited their GP at least once a year.

In the 12 months to April this year, Medicare paid for about 112 million GP consultations, up from 101 million over an equivalent period a decade ago.

"GPs managed increasing numbers of problems per encounter," the report also says.

"We estimate 24.7 million more problems were managed at GP encounters in Australia in 2008-09 than in 1999-00." Not only were GPs now working harder but the research showed the changing face of the workforce meant it was now older and increasingly female.

Women GPs increased from 30 to 33 per cent of the workforce over the 10 years, while doctors aged over 55 increased from 27 percent to 46 percent.

People aged over 45 made up more than 60 per cent of those who saw their GP in 2008-09, while women were also more likely than men to go to the doctor, accounting for 58 per cent of patients.

The institute released two reports - BEACH (Bettering the Evaluation And Care of Health) General Practice Activity in Australia 2008-09 and an accompanying 10-year review paper - on Wednesday, December 2nd.

Reference: Aussies eat more, smoke less: review by Danny Rose - Australian Associated Press, the, 12/1/2009.