Media releases

August 14, 2007

Physical Inactivity Costing Us In More Ways Than One

New research has revealed that physically inactive Australians are not only costing themselves in terms of health, but that they are costing our healthcare system $1.5 billion a year.

Released today by Medibank Private, the research estimates that 54 per cent of Australian adults - close to nine million people - are not sufficiently physically active, leading to poor health and creating a massive financial burden to the healthcare system.

Medibank Private Managing Director, Mr George Savvides, said he hoped quantifying the cost of physical inactivity would shock people into getting off the couch and getting active.

"We all know that not doing enough physical activity increases health risks. But now, for the first time, Medibank research has put a dollar figure on the cost of disease associated with a physically inactive lifestyle.

"In other words being physically inactive costs you in more ways than one: it costs you in health terms, and it costs your hip pocket.

"If more Australians got active the Australian healthcare system would save $1.5 billion - and we'd all be healthier and live longer.

"And the answer is not as hard as people may think. A 15 minute walk to the bus or train, walking around the block at lunch time, or walking the kids to school every day, teamed with at least one hour of activity a week could quite literally lengthen your life.

"Our study backs World Health Organisation estimates that physical inactivity causes 2 million deaths per year worldwide, doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and obesity, and increases the risk of some cancers, depression and anxiety. And it knocks off an average of two and half years of our life expectancy," Mr Savvides said.

The research commissioned by Medibank Private, and conducted by Econtech, looked at the prevalence of physical inactivity within the adult Australian population and calculated the direct health costs attributable to physical inactivity of seven medical conditions proven to be strongly related to physical activity.

The health conditions include: coronary heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, breast cancer, bowel cancer, depression, and falls. The research revealed 17% of the total health cost of treating these seven conditions can be attributed to physical inactivity.

Of the $1.5 billion the largest proportion, $468.7 million, is spent on costs related to falls, followed by $371.5 million for costs related to Coronary Heart Disease due to physical inactivity.

For further information please contact:
James Connors
T. (03) 8622 5163 or 0433 992 677 /

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