Global Health Issues | New Zealand


Fraser Clarke

Across the world a vast range of medical issues affect different parts of the planet to different degrees. Some are global, some are regional and some can be specific to a far smaller area.

As a medic looking at taking your career overseas, knowing as much as you can about a country’s health issues can be the key behind successfully securing a new job. On top of this it can also play a major role in helping you to decide where your future could lie.

Here, therefore, is the latest installment in our exclusive series of guides to the major health issues facing the countries we most commonly work with. In this article we will look at a country that regularly tops quality of life indexes - New Zealand

Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer is becoming increasingly widespread - especially amongst female Maoris. The Maoris are the indigenous people of New Zealand, and live lives that blend tradition with the 21st century. As a result smoking rates amongst this group are high, especially amongst women where estimates suggest as many as 40% of the country’s Maori population use tobacco.

This manifests itself in a higher than average rate of lung Cancer in the country. Smokers find themselves at an 80% higher risk of the condition than others, and this is further exemplified by the fact that lung Cancer is the biggest single killer of Maori women in the country.

Mental Health Conditions and Suicide

New Zealand is facing a major problem with increasing rates of people suffering from mental health conditions, whilst the country’s suicide rate is also continuing to rise - especially amongst men.

A male in New Zealand is more than three times more likely than a female to commit suicide, with it now being one of the main causes of male deaths in the country. In 2015 there were roughly 3,027 deaths by suicide, of which 2,292 involved males. That figure was a notable rise on 2014, where it was given as the cause of 2,864 deaths.

Maoris are not exempt from this statistic either, with suicide being the second biggest cause of deaths in males - a figure above diabetes and lung Cancer.

The government is increasing mental health funding in the country, to make it easier for people to find support - and to try and remove the stigma that still exists, especially amongst the Maoris. Globally however mental health conditions appear to be on the rise, and so it looks as if New Zealand will be battling increasing rates for many more years to come.

Maori Diabetes

Diabetes rates for most New Zealanders are lower than average, however for the Maoris the life long condition is one of the biggest issues that could face their health in the future.

Recent governmental statistics showed that just 2.8% of New Zealand’s non-Maori population had diabetes, with this figure doubling to 5.6% amongst the Maoris. Genetically they appear more susceptible to the condition, whilst their lifestyles also put them at a higher risk due to higher smoking and obesity rates, and lower levels of exercise.

Further to this Maoris are likely to be more unwilling to reach out to healthcare professionals, making the management of diabetes even less likely to be successful in the longer term.

Ischemic Heart Disease

There can be many contributing factors to cardiovascular illnesses; diet, weight, age, race and family history can all play a part, and this range of factors means that (unsurprisingly) it’s the biggest killer in the country.

Obesity rates in New Zealand are currently higher than ever, and concerningly they are continuing to rise. Currently it’s estimated that 1 in every 3 adults in the country is obese, with this figure rising for Maoris and being even greater for Pacific Islanders. Childhood obesity rates are also on the rise, meaning that the number of deaths from heart disease looks set to rise in the future.

Alcohol Abuse

New Zealand appears to be facing a problem with alcohol abuse, despite the rates of those consuming it dropping from 82% in 2005 to 79% by 2012. The number of people over the age of 15 drinking alcohol to potentially dangerous amounts sat at 15% two years ago, whilst Ministry of Health statistics showed that 8.4% of drinkers consumed a large amount of alcohol (more than six drinks for males or four for females on each occasion), at least once a week

Excessive alcohol consumption can bring with it a range of issues, with cirrhosis of the liver, Anemia, Cancer and depression all closely related to it - this means that it has become a massive burden on healthcare. In 2009 the cost of alcohol abuse on New Zealand’s healthcare sector was estimated to be around $4.9bn.

There is some positive news however, with the rate showing signs of dropping hopes are high that - much like smoking - younger generations may begin to drift away from alcohol.

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