Friday 20 April 2018

Our young men are bulking up while rest of us battle the bulge

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The Healthy Ireland Survey was launched by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

While thousands of people who are overweight or obese are battling the bulge, it is all about bulk and biceps for one in six young men who want to be heavier.

Young men in the 15-24 age group stand out as the group who most want to gain weight.

The fashion, which has been linked to admiration for rugby players and other sports stars, is in contrast to the 40pc of women of the same age who want to slim down.

They are twice as likely to be obese as young men at that age.

The gender divide has emerged in the Healthy Ireland Survey, commissioned by the Department of Health, which was launched by Health Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday.

It aims to capture our current state of well-being and reveal how well the nation is following healthy living advice.

Concern has previously been expressed by bodies like the Irish Sports Council about the use of body-building supplements by young men to build up their physique.

The report found several divides among the sexes and social classes in post-austerity Ireland.

Women aged 15-24 spend l6.7 hours a day sitting, more than any other group. But those who work in the home are least likely to find themselves on the couch.

Just 37pc of the population is a normal weight, while nearly one in four is obese.

Around 43pc of men are overweight, compared to 31pc of women, but they are more or less on a par when it comes to obesity.

When it comes to drinking, 76pc consume alcohol and men are more likely to imbibe than women. The better-off say they consume alcohol more frequently, but those in the lower socio-economic classes are more likely to binge.

Another gap emerges when it comes to smoking. While fewer than one in five people now smokes, it is as high as 35pc in the more deprived areas. It is down as low as 16pc among the better-off.

The majority (63pc) of smokers say they are trying to quit.

People now visit their GP an average of 4.3 times a year. But those who have a medical card see their doctor 6.3 times a year. Among those who have to pay, visits average 2.9 a year.

Half of women aged 55 or over take little or no exercise.

Some 53pc claim they cook from scratch using only fresh ingredients.

Another 42pc say they combine these with some help from packets and jars.

Around 3pc are living on ready meals and 1pc look to takeaways for their dinners.

In the area of mental well-being, younger women and older men are most at risk.

People who experience the most deprivation are also likely to indicate a probable mental-health problem. Just one-fifth are aware of the association between high blood pressure and dementia.

Around 39pc believe their neighbourhood has poor public transport and a similar proportion report house break-ins as a problem in their area.

Rubbish or litter lying around the neighbourhood is considered a problem for just under one in three.

Commenting on the findings, Mr Varadkar said while there were signs of significant improvement "we still face some serious risks", including alcohol misuse and the large numbers of people who are not exercising enough.

He is to bring forward shortly legislation on minimum pricing of alcohol and also new policies on obesity, sexual health and physical activity.

The fear is that if obesity levels are not reduced significantly, it will reverse the strides made in life expectancy.

Irish Independent

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