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Notwithstanding High Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity, Smoking Remains the Most Important Factor in Poor Self-rated Health and Hospital Use in an Australian Regional Community

Department of Rural Health, Melbourne Medical School, The University of Melbourne, Graham St Shepparton, Victoria, Australia 3630

Objective: To classify a rural community sample by their modifiable health behaviours and identify the prevalence of chronic conditions, poor self-rated health, obesity and hospital use. Method: Secondary analysis of a cross- sectional self-report questionnaire in the Hume region of Victoria, Australia. Cluster analysis using the two-step method was applied to responses to health behaviour items. Results: 1,259 questionnaires were completed. Overall 63% were overweight or obese. Three groups were identified: ‘Healthy Lifestyle’ (63%), ‘Non Smoking, Unhealthy Lifestyle’ (25%) and ‘Smokers’ (12%). ‘Healthy lifestyle’ were older and more highly educated than the other two groups while ‘Non Smoking, Unhealthy Lifestyle’ were more likely to be obese. ‘Smokers’ had the highest rate of poor self-rated health. Prevalence of chronic conditions was similar in each group (>20%). ‘Smokers’ were twice as likely to have had two or more visits to hospital in the preceding year even after adjustment for age, gender and education. Conclusion: High rates of overweight and obesity were identified but ‘Smokers’ were at the greatest risk for poor self-rated health and hospitalisation. Implications for Public Health: Within an environment of high rates of chronic ill health and obesity, primary care clinicians and public health policy makers must maintain their vigilance in encouraging people to quit smoking.
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