The University of Newcastle, Australia

Why don't young men eat fruit and veg?

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Their lunch menu rarely includes a light salad, they're not fond of being yelled at by aerobics instructors in lycra, yet men in the 18-25 year bracket are supposed to fit the 'one size fits all approach' to health and obesity interventions.

Not any more …

University of Newcastle physical activity researcher Lee Ashton is designing a tailored, user-driven lifestyle program for this unique demographic, and he wants feedback from young men to better cater for their needs and to overcome participation barriers.

"Young men are often neglected in health research," Mr Ashton, a PhD candidate with the Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition program, warns. "We recently completed a systematic review and discovered there have been no behavioural weight-loss intervention studies for them."

The recent Australian Health Survey showed that 18- to 25-year-old males have numerous health concerns – 42% are overweight or obese; 97% don't consume recommended daily servings of fruit and vegetables; 48% don't meet national physical activity recommendations and 68% consume alcohol at risky levels.

Other research has found that 50% of young men reported that coping with stress was their biggest issue while a quarter had experienced a diagnosed mental health disorder.

"We are trying to address the concerns in this population group with a gender-tailored program in early 2016," Mr Ashton adds. "We have run focus groups and now have an online survey running to capture feedback. Around 70 young guys have filled it out so far but we need 300."

Results from the focus groups were recently published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity. Among the stated motivators were "to look good and attract women" and "feel better like endorphins and all that razzmatazz".

Barriers cited were, "when we're eating in a group it's not like 'Hey, come over, let's all have a salad together'" and "I just hate the idea of people in Spandex yelling at me".

The survey is live at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/youngmensurvey – participants will go into a prize draw to win an IPAD mini or one of five Woolworths wish vouchers worth $150.

* Lee Ashton researches in conjunction with HMRI's Cardiovascular Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.

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