Aussie girls healthier than boys: report
YOUNG women are running rings around young men in eating well and keeping fit, lowering their risk of chronic disease.
A new study of Australians' nutrition and exercise has found differences between the sexes begin at adolescence. Females aged 10 to 17 are almost twice as likely to meet recommended daily intakes of fruit and vegetables than males of that age.
And among people aged 18 to 25, many fewer females than males are overweight or obese, according to research by Melbourne's Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.
The Institute's Dr Sarah Dash said gender-based cultural expectations of body shape and traditional roles in preparing food might explain some of the results.
"There are certain things like risk-taking behaviour that we see more in men ... whereas with women we tend to characterise them as a little bit more sensible, insightful. There has been a cultural message that women need to look a certain way and be mindful of diet and exercise," Dr Dash said.
She said men and women may have different risks of cardiovascular or metabolic disease and different health outcomes, but it was important to remember that behavioural factors were in the control of individuals and could be changed. And the foundations for such healthy behaviour were laid early in life, she said.
An analysis of 2952 people from the 2011-2012 Australian Health Survey, which was conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, found almost no difference between the sexes' nutrition and activity levels during childhood.
However, during adolescence just 7.5 per cent of males met daily fruit and vegetable intake recommendations, compared with almost 13 per cent of females.
By young adulthood, 40 per cent of males were overweight or obese, compared with 30 per cent of females.
Women were also more likely to meet physical activity recommendations.
The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found adolescence was critical in developing sex-specific differences in health behaviour, necessitating the development of differing health interventions for the sexes.
Alice Reynolds, who exercises with brother Sam, said: "Women are usually more conscious of their physical appearance.
"It can be a good thing."