18 October, 2023

Sport good for health system

AUSTRALIANS saved the health system more than $320 million in a single year by participating in sport and other forms of physical activity, according to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Sport, such as AFL in Cairns, reduces costs on the nation’s health system despite the number of injuries.
Sport, such as AFL in Cairns, reduces costs on the nation’s health system despite the number of injuries.

The report, ‘Economics of sport and physical activity participation and injury’, shows that while there are costs to the health system from treating sport and other exercise-related injuries, this is outweighed by savings from benefits such as lower blood pressure, stronger bones and improved mental health.

The report is part of a broader project funded by the Australian Sports Commission to progressively develop and test new methodology for gathering evidence about the costs of sports injuries and potential benefits to Australians from increased physical activity and improved injury prevention and management.

“Physical activity has physical and psychological benefits for individuals which can in turn benefit the health system by reducing the need for people to receive treatment for illness and injuries,” said AIHW spokeswoman Dr Heather Swanston.

“We estimate that physical inactivity accounted for around $2.4 billion in health spending in 2018-19,” she said.

“The cost to the health system would have been $1.7bn higher without the health benefits from current levels of physical activity, including sport, undertaken in Australia.

“Around $1.2bn was spent on injuries incurred while undertaking physical activity and $149m was spent on osteoarthritis due to previous injury from physical activity.

“Overall, sport and physical activity provided a net saving of $321m to the Australian health system.” 

More spending could have been avoided through improved injury prevention and management in sport and other forms of physicial activity.

Of the $1.7bn in health spending prevented by physical activity during 2018-19, the benefit was similar for males ($820 m) and females ($832m). Around $190m in benefit was due to reduced blood pressure and associated cardiovascular diseases, while $108m was due to improved bone mineral density and reduced fracture costs.

From directly associated conditions, physical activity prevented the most spending on falls ($488m), depression ($392m) and anxiety ($173m). Through reductions in blood pressure, savings were highest for coronary heart disease ($82m), atrial fibrillation and flutter ($34m) and stroke ($21m). Through improvements in fasting plasma glucose, savings were highest for coronary heart disease ($7m).


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