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04 April 2018

Media release

Young Australian females have lower lifestyle risk for chronic disease compared to male counterparts

Many young people in Australia are not meeting healthy physical activity and nutrition guidelines, with lifestyle risk factors differing between males and females, suggests a new study by the Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

The study looking at data from the Australian Health Survey aimed to identify the sex differences in risk factors for chronic disease during childhood (5–9 years), adolescence (10–17 years) and emerging adulthood (18–25 years).

Sex differences in nutrition and physical activity appeared to emerge in adolescence. Among 10–17 year olds, females were almost twice as likely as males to meet daily fruit and vegetable recommendations.

In emerging adults (18–25 years), females were less likely to be overweight and more likely to meet physical activity recommendations. Baker Institute researcher Dr Sarah Dash said the findings suggest that from adolescence onwards, females appear to exhibit lower lifestyle-related risk than males.

“The sex differences observed in this study may be a reflection of gender-based sociocultural expectations, such as expectations on female body composition, or traditional roles around food preparation,” said Dr Dash.

“Because health behaviours established when we are young often track into adulthood, it’s important to understand when these sex differences emerge, in order to target sex-specific public health strategies that account for sociocultural factors.”

Dr Dash said the results shows us that sex differences in healthy behaviours may start to appear when young people begin to gain a bit of independence. It’s important to consider social and cultural factors that may influence health behaviours in young men and women at this age.

”Early life is an important window of opportunity, given that individual risk and protective behaviours are often established and refined during this age period. If we don’t pay attention to lifestyle habits at this age it can increase our risk for to chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.”

The findings were published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

For further information or to organise interviews please contact:

Suzana Talevski
T: 03 8532 1240
M: 0439 977 203

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