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  • How COVID-19 is impacting the health of Australian men

    15 June 2020

    New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the Coronavirus is negatively impacting the health of Australian men, with almost one in five (17.6 per cent) reporting increased snack food consumption and one tenth (10.8 per cent) reporting increased alcohol consumption.

    The data, which reports on food and exercise habits of Australian men over a one-week period, also shows 21.8 per cent have reduced their physical activity levels. 

    With today marking the start of Men’s Health Week (15 – 21 June) Cancer Council SA Dietitian Nat von Bertouch is urging South Australian men to think about what they’re eating and how they can stay active, especially if they are still working from home. 

    “Although some men have been using this opportunity to improve their physical activity levels, one in five are doing less than they were before. Reduced physical activity, combined with increase in snack foods (chips, lollies and biscuits) and increased alcohol consumption can have negative impacts on overall health, especially if they become habits,” Ms von Bertouch said. 

    ‘Unfortunately, data shows that men have a higher chance of both being diagnosed with and dying from cancer than women, with over 6,000 more Australian men losing their lives to cancer every year than Australian women. While there are several contributing factors, what’s clear is that men simply don’t look after themselves as well as women do.” 

    “The most commonly diagnosed cancers in Australian men are prostate, bowel, melanoma and lung cancer. And for three of these four, we know that lifestyle factors play a major role in determining the risk,” she said.

    Ms von Bertouch said that while the trends are concerning, it’s never too late to make healthy lifestyle changes. She is encouraging men to use Men’s Health Week as a chance to reassess their everyday habits and make positive changes to protect their future health. 

    “Eating too many foods and drinks that are high in fat and sugar can contribute to excess energy intake and make it difficult for men to maintain a healthy weight, which can increase the risk of up to 13 different types of cancer.” 

    “Alcohol is also a source of empty kilojoules which can contribute to weight gain. Furthermore, alcohol is classified as a group 1 carcinogen, the highest classification available, which means that it has a direct correlation to cancer.”

    “It’s important to get the balance right between energy in (food and drinks) vs energy out (exercise). Fat cells have some important roles in our body, but when we consume more energy than we need, we gain weight and gain more fat cells. These fat cells also get bigger and bigger over time and this can disrupt the messages that are sent around the body.”

    “When a person is above a healthy weight for a long period of time, the disrupted messages can alter cells, increasing the chances of cell mutation. Alcohol also does more harm than many people think, with every drink also increasing the risk of cell mutation and cancer,” she said.  

    “It’s been a difficult couple of months, with our daily routines changing significantly, however as restrictions start to ease and we begin to resume our day to day activities, it’s also important that we take active steps to improve our diet and physical activity routines.”  

    Men’s Health Week runs from the 15 – 21 June across Australia. For more information on how to cut your cancer risk, visit the Cancer Council SA website at cancersa.org.au/cut-my-risk.

    Notes to Editor 

    • • The Australian Bureau of Statistics Data analysed the household impacts of COVID-19 over a one-week period (29 April to 4 May) and analysed consumption changes. 

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