A cross-sectional survey of health risk behaviour clusters among a sample of socially disadvantaged Australian welfare recipients


Corresponding to: Dr Jamie Bryant, Public Health /HBRG, HMRI Building, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308; e-mail: Jamie.bryant@newcastle.edu.au


Objective : To examine the prevalence and clustering of six health risk behaviours (smoking, alcohol, inadequate sun protection, physical inactivity, and inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption) among severely disadvantaged individuals.

Methods : A cross-sectional touch screen computer survey was conducted with 383 clients attending a social and community welfare organisation in New South Wales. Participants were assessed on smoking status, alcohol consumption, fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, sun protection and socio-demographic characteristics. Descriptive statistics, factor analysis and logistic regression were used to assess the prevalence, clustering and socio-demographic predictors of health risk behaviours.

Results : Ninety-eight per cent of the participants reported inadequate vegetable consumption, 62.7% reported inadequate fruit consumption, 82.5% reported inadequate sun protection, 61.7% smoked tobacco, 51.4% consumed alcohol at risky levels and 36.5% were insufficiently active. Most participants (87%) reported three or more risk behaviours. Male participants, younger participants and those with lower education were more likely to smoke tobacco and consume alcohol.

Conclusions : The prevalence of health risk behaviours among a sample of typically hard-to-reach, severely disadvantaged individuals is extremely high.

Implications : Future intervention development should take into account the likelihood of health risk clustering among severely disadvantaged groups.