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The GFC is bad for more than just your pocket

One in four Australian adults has taken an action that puts their health at risk as a result of the global financial crisis (GFC), according to a new MBF Healthwatch poll.

The results show that lack of job security was particularly hard on families, with almost one in five parents turning up to work ill and close to one in 10 parents sending sick children to school.

Dr Christine Bennett, Chief Medical Officer of Bupa Australia* warns that short-term, risky health actions taken by individuals in an attempt to save money or prove job dedication are likely to have long term negative health outcomes for Australia.

"The poll has revealed that during the past six months, more than two million workers have gone to work ill because they have been concerned about taking a sick day, and a worrying 17 per cent of Australians have avoided or delayed a visit to a GP, dentist or a specialist," Dr Bennett said.

The results reinforce the findings of Research Australia's report, Australian Financial Crisis: Implications for Health & Research (Report), which highlights that the fall-out from the GFC goes beyond economics and has major long-term health implications for Australia.

In the Report, which has been produced with the support of Bupa Australia, health policy makers are being urged to prepare for increases in obesity, mental illness, chronic health conditions, and alcohol and drug misuse.

"The health impact of the GFC has largely been overshadowed by the focus on the economy," Research Australia Chief Executive Officer, Rebecca James explained. "However, the health consequences may be felt long after the economy turns around."

The ground-breaking independent Report, which features the views of some of Australia's leading experts in health, the economy, government and society, has revealed that the negative health effects of the GFC include:

An increase in psychological distress of both employed and unemployed Australians;
An increase in the numbers of long term unemployed who are at risk of long term disadvantage, which may be characterised by lower health status;

Health and other support services will be stretched.

Dr Bennett, who recently chaired the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, commented that the Report is a timely reminder that Australia needs a health system that is able to respond to unexpected events such as recession.

"Australia's continued investment in research will be vital to the development of effective health and social policy to ensure we are better prepared for the future," she added.

The Research Australia independent report, Australian Financial Crisis: Implications for Health & Research, produced with the support of Bupa Australia and the National Health & Medical Research Council, looks at the research evidence on the health and social impacts of economic downturn and features the views of some of Australia's leading experts in health, the economy, government and society.

The MBF Healthwatch poll is a nationally representative poll of 1,100 Australians aged 16 and over conducted by Galaxy Research by telephone on the weekend of November 6-8, 2009.

To arrange an interview with Research Australia's Rebecca James, Bupa Australia's Dr Christine Bennett and/or any of the experts in the Report, please contact:

Rachel McConaghy 0421 762 140
Melina Schamroth 0409 833 848
About Research Australia
Research Australia is the peak not for profit body for health and medical research. It is a national alliance of more than 180 members and supporting organisations working together to promote health and medical research in Australia. For more information please visit

* About Bupa Australia

Bupa Australia is a leading healthcare provider. With a significant presence in every Australian State and Territory, the company operates under the trusted and respected brands, MBF, HBA, Mutual Community and Clearview, proudly covering over three million Australians.

Bupa Australia is driven by the vision of "Taking care of the lives in our hands" and has the goal of helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives. The company is focused on providing sustainable health insurance and financial services solutions that represent real value to customers, and on leading the industry in the promotion of preventive health and wellness.

As part of the international Bupa Group, Bupa Australia draws on the strength and expertise of an international healthcare leader. The Bupa Group covers over 10 million people in over 200 countries and provides other health and financial services to many more millions of customers around the globe.

Rachel McConaghy | EurekAlert!
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