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National Health Survey: Research finds Australians are smoking less but are sadder than ever

Struggled with mental health this year? You’re not alone. New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that while Australians are turning away from vapes, chronic conditions including mental illness are on the rise. 

According to new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Australians are smoking less than ever, but are more mentally ill than they have ever been. 

The findings have come from the latest instalment of the ABS’ annual National Health Survey, released last week, which gathers “Information on health behaviours, conditions prevalence, and risk factors in Australia.” 

Some Things You Find In Vapes

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Smoking is on the way out

According to the report, one in ten (10.6 per cent) Australian adults aged 18 years and over were current daily smokers in 2022, and one in seven (14.4 per cent) adults have used e-cigarette or vaping devices.

These rates of smoking have steadily declined over the past twenty years, from 22.4 per cent in 2001.

Notably, nearly three in five (58.3 per cent) adults have never smoked, which Emeritus Professor Wayne Hall from the National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research at the University of Queensland told the ABC is indicative of the success of anti-smoking public health campaigns.

„It is especially pleasing to see the daily smoking rate is as low as 1.6 per cent among 15 to 17-year-olds and 7.3 per cent in adults 18-24 years,“ he said.

„Smoking rates in these age groups have declined over the past three national health surveys in the absence of similar declines in those over 55 years.“

Quitting smoking by turning to vaping 

That being said, many people may have never smoked but have vaped – or have switched from smoking to vaping, in a misled attempt to quell their cigarette addictions. 

The ABS data shows that one in six (17.9 per cent) young people aged 15–17 years had used e-cigarette or vaping devices, with that figure rising to 38 per cent for those in the 18-24 bracket. 

Of the results, Hall said the data suggests “increased e-cigarette use among younger adults may have contributed to the decline in cigarette smoking.” 

„It would be desirable to see more data on the frequency of e-cigarette use and the extent to which e-cigarette users have switched from smoking cigarettes to the exclusive use of e-cigarettes.“

Howwever, it’s important to note too that while decreased usage of cigarettes is fantastic, the new popularity of vaping is not. As people continue to vape, new data is being discovered about their intensely addictive nature, and the plethora of health conditions they cause – from lung defects to seizures to decreased sperm count. 

A rise in chronic conditions

While Australians are making positive changes when it comes to smoking, the Survey has also shed light on some less-than-ideal developments when it comes to chronic health conditions. 

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, “Chronic diseases are long-lasting conditions with persistent effects. Their social and economic consequences can impact on peoples‘ quality of life.” 

The ABS data showed that eight in 10 (81,4 per cent) Australians had at least one long-term health condition, while one in two (49.9%) people had at least one chronic condition. 

The most common conditions were mental and behavioural health (26.1 per cent), back problems (15.7 per cent), and arthritis (14.5 per cent). 

Physiotherapist and professor Lorimer Moseleys from the University of South Australia said the data showed there’s a need for people with chronic pain conditions and mental illness to be able to access models of care „grounded in education and active self-management strategies“.

There are clinical guidelines across the world that “recommend these interventions, but not enough Australians are receiving them,” he told the ABC.

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