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National Health Survey: neighbourhood impacts on health

28 / 08 / 19

The first report of Neighbourhood impacts on health analysis of the Australian National Health Survey (NHS) conducted during 2017-18 is now available. For the first time in 2017-18 the NHS included a range of geospatial built environment variables covering commuting distance, counts of supermarkets, fast food outlets and amenities, public open space and population density. The first report examines access to supermarkets and fast food outlets in proximity to people's homes and the impact on health risk factors.

The analysis showed people living in areas of most disadvantage or outside of major cities (more remote) were more likely to experience higher rates of health risk factors. However, proximity to fast food outlets was not associated with risk, in fact the converse is true. Living in major cities close to supermarkets and fast food outlets appears to be associated with health benefits, even in the most disadvantaged.

A summary of the results are as follows:

Fifty five percent of Australians live within 1500m of a supermarket and 43.8% live within 1500m of a fast food outlet.

People living close to supermarkets or fast food outlets were:

  • more likely to live in areas of most disadvantage,
  • more likely to live in major cities,
  • more likely to walk for transport,
  • more likely to be physically active,
  • more likely to have completed 150 minutes of physical activity per week,
  • less likely to be overweight or obese,
  • consumed the same amount of sweetened drinks and fruits and vegetables as people living remotely (except for children aged 2-17 who consumed less sweetened drinks if they were close to a supermarket (5.4% vs 9%).

These results may indicate the benefit of living in an area with access to a wide range of facilities and amenities and the benefits held even for those living in areas of most disadvantage. Further analysis could provide more insight into the impact of the local environment on health such as road and public transport networks, private vehicle use in relation to how people access supermarkets and fast food outlets, the impact of living near multiple commercial destinations, more detailed exploration into environmental information versus nutrition survey data and influences on consumer food choice such as pricing and availability.

Access the report here.