Background: The National Secondary Students’ Diet and Activity (NaSSDA) survey was established by Cancer Councils and the National Heart Foundation of Australia, and supported by State and Territory Government funding, to address the lack of regular monitoring of young people’s eating and physical activity behaviours at the national level.
Aim: To provide population estimates of body weight, dietary and physical activity behaviour among Australian secondary school students and track changes over time.
Methods: Cross-sectional survey of 8,888 students in Years 8 to 11 (aged 12-17 years) who completed the NaSSDA survey in 2012-13 compared with 12,188 who completed the 2009-10 survey. Students’ self-reported dietary, physical activity and sedentary behaviours were assessed using validated instruments administered via an online questionnaire. Their height, weight and waist circumference were measured.
Results: In 2012-13, only 13% of students reported meeting the recommended ≥5 daily serves of vegetables, while 73% reported consuming the recommended ≥2 daily serves of fruit. Just 18% of students reported engaging in ≥60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity every day, with a minority of students meeting sedentary behaviour recommendations during the school week (23%) and on the weekend (11%). Twenty-three percent of students were categorised as being overweight or obese. Males were more active than females, but had poorer diets, spent more time being sedentary and had higher odds of being overweight. Compared to 2009-10, students' dietary habits had moved further in line with healthy eating guidelines; however, low socio-economic position emerged as a probable risk factor for poor diet. A small increase over time in students meeting physical activity recommendations coincided with a decrease in students meeting recommended levels of sedentary behaviour.
Conclusion: Despite some improvements between 2009-10 and 2012-13, young people’s health behaviours are still falling well short of national dietary and physical activity recommendations.