Illawarra residents weigh more and worry more than other Australians, according to new research from the University of Wollongong and Illawarra Shoalhaven Medicare Local.
The joint study, published in the journal BMC Public Health this week, found 65.9 per cent of residents were obese or overweight, more than two percentage points above the Australian average.
It also found nearly 12 per cent of people suffered from high blood pressure, a higher rate than the national average of 10.4 per cent, and that the prevalence of anxiety disorders was inflated in the Illawarra, affecting 5 per cent of residents compared with a national average of 3.8 per cent.
The study collated information about more than 150,000 Illawarra residents from 17 general practices over two years. Study co-author Associate Professor Karen Charlton said the figures were alarming because obesity and high blood pressure were risk factors for conditions such as heart disease.
"This is really a starting point and the figures need to make us sit up and say OK, what is it we're going to do to try and help people improve their health."
She said this information would allow the region's healthcare providers to target their resources effectively.
"We feel that this could be a really good surveillance system, not just for the Illawarra, but for NSW and hopefully for the entire country, of keeping an eye on pockets where prevalence of chronic disease is going up.
"Across the Illawarra Shoalhaven region, we can be confident that at primary care level, there need to be resources put into prevention and management of chronic diseases."
There were some positives from the study, including a lower than average age-related asthma rate.
The Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute is running a 12-month Health Track Study to help people lead healthier lifestyles.
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