Work hard, play hard: Pilbara life not helping our health

Tom Zaunmayr and Sophia ConstantineNorth West Telegraph
Wickham Wasps rugby league players Tipi Te Rangihaeata and Tekaha Stojanovic.
Camera IconWickham Wasps rugby league players Tipi Te Rangihaeata and Tekaha Stojanovic. Credit: Pilbara News, Tom Zaunmayr.

New data has laid bare our “work hard, play hard” attitude to life, with Pilbarian residents rating above average on physical activity despite being among the heaviest drinkers and smokers in Australia.

The 2017 Australian Health Tracker Report released by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration this month revealed a range of concerning health statistics in the Pilbara despite our perceived outdoors lifestyle.

Data compiled showed more than 22.7 per cent of Karratha residents consumed alcohol at a rate considered to be risky, above the 18.2 per cent national average.

It also revealed a high smoking rate of 17.7 per cent, well above the 12.8 per cent national average.

Despite our reported overindulgence, City of Karratha residents fared better when it comes to keeping in shape compared with the rest of the nation.

Some 58.6 per cent of respondents in Karratha reported no or low exercise during the week of the survey, placing us in the most active of five brackets.

In Port Hedland 24.2 per cent of residents consumed booze at a rate considered to be risky, compared to 23.4 per cent of South Hedland residents, above the 18.2 per cent national average.

22.1 per cent for Port Hedland residents smoked, 5.3 per cent below South Hedland residents and still well above the national average.

The report found 58.6 per cent of respondents in Port Hedland reported no or low exercise during the week of the survey, compared to 62.8 per cent of South Hedland respondents.

Jan Newburn and April Butt from Red Rocks Fitness.
Camera IconJan Newburn and April Butt from Red Rocks Fitness. Credit: Pilbara News, Tom Zaunmayr

Red Rocks Fitness nutritionist April Butt said the Pilbara’s work hard, play hard mentality was a big factor in alcohol-related health issues, including weight gain.

“Most people who come up to Karratha come through our door because they’ve gained an extra 10kg,” she said.

“A lot of people are really keen to exercise but some of them fall into that trap of thinking if they exercise more they can still drink.

“It doesn’t have to be boot camp or weights, just get out and do something you love and you will be more likely to stick to it. You’re already eating anyway so you don’t have to put in any extra effort to have a healthy diet, just change your foods around.”

Ms Butt said exercise had proven benefits for mental health and wellbeing as well as physical fitness.

A Karratha Alcoholics Anonymous spokesman said despite the high drinking rate, there was only a small group of people seeking help.

“People think it’s all shame and guilt but in actual fact because it’s a disease, it’s not really anything to be ashamed of,” he said.

“It can be fixed, there is a solution and in most cases they can’t do it by themselves.”

He said occasionally new people came to the Tuesday and Sunday night sessions at the Salvation Army building, but most lacked commitment or did not believe they could fight the habit.

Health figures were not available in the shires of East Pilbara, Ashburton or Exmouth.

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