Lifestyle – National health and wellbeing study: is NZ headed for a healthy future?

The main factors keeping people awake at night are having too much to think about (52 per cent) and being anxious or stressed (41 per cent).

Mental health, cost of living, suicide rates and violence are among the biggest issues keeping Kiwis awake at night, a national health and wellbeing study has found.

These are followed closely by concerns about substance abuse, access to affordable healthcare, obesity, physical health and the impact of high-sugar content in food and drinks.

The findings are among the first released from the Southern Cross Healthy Futures Report, which tracked the health and wellbeing attitudes and behaviours of more than 3000 Kiwis – starting in 2019 and continuing through to alert levels 4 and 3.

The research, which will examine the state of New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing every two years, was undertaken by Colmar Brunton on behalf of Southern Cross, New Zealand’s leading independent health and wellness provider.

It analyses Kiwis’ physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing by examining indicators such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, relationships, stress, travel, work-life balance and social connection.

Chief Medical Officer of Southern Cross’ Health Insurance business, Dr Stephen Child, says the Healthy Futures Report presents a complex picture that shows influences on New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing are multi-faceted and increasingly varied.

“All New Zealanders value the right to positive health and wellbeing but there is a big discrepancy in terms of what they are actually experiencing. The pressures Kiwis face in all areas of their lives can feel relentless, particularly as they move through different life stages that often present new and unexpected challenges.

“People are finding it hard to improve many aspects of their health and wellbeing, and mental health in particular is at breaking point in this country. While we are more connected than ever before through technology, the pace of modern life isolates people and relationships become more superficial.”

 “We need to listen to what this research is telling us about where people are struggling – and act on it.”

Just 46 per cent of Kiwis report getting enough sleep, with the average hours (6.97) falling below the recommended seven to nine hours per night. The main factors keeping people awake are having too much to think about (52 per cent) and being anxious or stressed (41 per cent). Kiwis strongly associate mental and emotional wellbeing with being healthy, but 12 per cent are unhappy with their current mental state.

When it comes to physical health, 64 per cent of Kiwis are most concerned about not being as fit as they should be and when looking at their diet, 62 per cent are worried about making sure their kids eat healthy food.

While a high number of people say they are knowledgeable about what healthy food is (89 per cent), many want to lose weight (75 per cent) but think healthy eating is expensive (72 per cent) and eat unhealthy food when feeling stressed (64 per cent).

The Southern Cross Healthy Futures research also reveals where Kiwis are making good progress including getting back to basics in the kitchen, moving more, prioritising exercising and nurturing relationships.

Dr Child says, “As a nation we still have a way to go when it comes to investing in our mind health and relationships. Many New Zealanders have a sense of where they should be at, but few people feel like they are actually in a good place despite wanting to make improvements for their own sake and that of their loved ones.

“When it comes to physical health, it’s heartening to see some progress. Kiwis know what they should be doing but their concern is that they’re not necessarily getting it right often enough and that can lead to guilt and frustration.”

Key insights

Social health and wellbeing

  • 55 per cent of Kiwi parents want more family time. This figure is even higher among families with young children (65 per cent).
  • Three in five Kiwis are happy with their romantic relationships (58 per cent) and social life / friendships (61 per cent).

Physical health and wellbeing

  • 64 per cent of Kiwis are most concerned about not being as fit as they should be.
  • 62 per cent are worried about making sure their kids eat healthy food.
  • 89 per cent of Kiwis say they are knowledgeable about what healthy food is.
  • 75 per cent want to lose weight.
  • 64 per cent eat unhealthy food when feeling stressed.

Emotional health and wellbeing

  • Only 46 per cent of Kiwis report getting enough sleep.
  • The main factors keeping people awake at night are having too much to think about (52 per cent) and being anxious or stressed (41 per cent).
  • Kiwis strongly associate mental and emotional wellbeing with being healthy, but 12 per cent are unhappy with their current mental state.

ENDS