The latest installment of the Healthy Living Index isn’t kind to Malaysians. For 2016, the AIA group polled over 10,000 adults in 15 Asia Pacific nations, and asked them to rate their health status. Among those nations, 73 points was the average rating for satisfaction with health status. Malaysia had 68 points, based on 751 Malaysians polled.
A number of factors combined to keep health satisfaction scores lower. When asked if they felt their health was as good as it was five years ago, 70 percent of Malaysians said no. More troubling is a feeling among younger Malaysians (30 or younger) that their health could be better. A factor that causes concern for future Malaysians is one that shows rising obesity numbers, for both adults and children.
While the fact that many Malaysians feel their health should be better is a positive, different aspects of their lives contribute to the general feeling of unhealthiness. What are some of them?
Poor nutritional habits lead to obesity problems for ALL Malaysians
The number of Malaysians whose weight falls into the “obese” category is now up to 55 percent. Obesity is just one of many outcomes of poor nutritional habits and ideas.
- Being distracted by computer or smartphone screens while eating – 86 percent
- Eating unhealthy snacks – 81 percent
- Preconceptions that “healthy food” is more expensive – 81 percent
- Late hours for meals – 73 percent
- Healthy food doesn’t taste very good – 64 percent
- Healthy foods are more difficult to prepare – 58 percent
Malaysian adults are aware of the need for weight loss. At least 60 percent felt like they needed to lose at least 15 lbs. Many of those adults (17 percent) would like to see their children lose at least 10 lbs. But it’s not just poor nutrition habits that are causing obesity issues in Malaysia.
Too much internet and smartphone and not enough exercise
Just as it has become for the majority of the world, Malaysians are spending too much time staring at screens, and not enough time on physical activity. Sixty-eight percent of Malaysians admitted that they are addicted to online activities, compared to a regional average of 57 percent.
There is a growing fear that the addiction trend will continue, as younger Malaysians, comfortable with the growing aspects of internet activities, mature into adults. Half of the surveyed parents believed that their children were spending entirely too much time in front of a TV screen, computer screen, or playing video games.
Overall, Malaysians admitted to spending 4.1 hours a week in front of a screen (non-work time), and only 2.6 hours in physical activity (compared to 3.5 hours recommended by fitness experts). So poor nutrition, coupled with low amounts of exercise, has led to many Malaysians feeling overweight, but do they understand the health concerns brought about by their condition?
Concern and awareness of obesity-related problems
Malaysians are aware, and concerned, about their health, especially as they age. Most surveyed listed their concerns as: heart issues, diabetes, cancer, and stroke. They also listed concerns about: anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s and senility issues.
Even as they express concern about medical issues, only 46 percent of those surveyed have had a medical check-up over the past year. Sadly, that number has declined recently. Fifty-two percent (also the regional average) had a check-up in 2011. That percentage then dropped to 50 percent in 2013.
Malaysians are aware of the negative trends regarding their overall health. Like most, they express a desire to improve their eating habits and lifestyle choices toward that end. Seventy-five percent say they have taken small steps to improve their health. That is encouraging. However, the same percentage admits to not knowing exactly what steps they should take, and feel they would be able to achieve better results with proper guidance.
As health care costs continue to skyrocket, the people of Malaysia find themselves in a situation similar to other Asia Pacific nations. Their eating and lifestyle habits are causing obesity problems, which can cause serious health problems as they age. The positive to take from this situation is that they are aware of the issues, and would welcome guidance toward a healthier lifestyle. Hopefully that guidance, through an improved and pro-active health care system, can be made available, for the sake of all Malaysians.