Global Health Issues 2019: New Zealand

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Fraser Clarke

Health issues are always evolving, with each country and continent having its own unique set of challenges. In the latest in our exclusive new series, Global Health Issues, we’ll take a look at each country we work with, and examine what conditions are most prevalent there.

In the fourth article we’ll take a look at a country where we’ve got a fantastic range of exciting opportunities, especially for psychiatrists. New Zealand. It might be on the other side of the world, but making a move there is less challenging than you might imagine.

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. Suicide rates in 2018 were the highest since records began, with 668 people taking their lives over the past 12 months. 

The country’s indigenous Maori population are not exempt from this statistic either, with suicide being the second biggest cause of death in Maori 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 are on the rise, and therefore it looks as if New Zealand will be battling increasing rates for many more years to come.

Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer is becoming increasingly widespread in New Zealand - especially amongst female Maoris. The Maoris live lives that blend tradition with the 21st century, and as a result smoking rates amongst this group are abnormally high, especially among women with estimates suggesting 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 New Zealand.

Ischemic Heart Disease

There can be many contributing factors to cardiovascular illness; 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 one in every three 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 as if it will continue 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 regularly dropping from 82% in 2005 to 79% by 2012. The number of people over the age of 15 drinking alcohol to potentially dangerous levels sat at 15% when the latest statistics were published, whilst Ministry of Health figures 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 makes it a massive burden on healthcare. In 2009 the cost of alcohol abuse on New Zealand’s medical sector was estimated to be around $4.9bn. 

Diabetes in Maori Groups

Diabetes rates for most New Zealanders are lower than average, however for Maoris the life long condition is one of the biggest health challenges that they could face over the coming years.

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 Maoris. Genetically they appear more susceptible to the condition, whilst their lifestyle also put them at a higher risk due to higher smoking and obesity rates, and lower levels of exercise. 

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

Could you help New Zealand battle any of the major health issues facing the nation, or do you believe that your career could simply be enriched by a move to the country? Register on our website today and start your Odyssey. A dream move could be closer than you might imagine.