Vegetarianism on the rise

Thursday, 31 October, 2013

Meat processors, block your ears: you may not want to hear this. More Australians are identifying as vegetarian - or at least embracing a meat-minimal lifestyle.

New research from Roy Morgan shows that the number of Australians aged 14+ who agree with the statement “The food I eat is all, or almost all, vegetarian” has grown from 1,608,000 in 2009 to 1,935,000 in June 2013. That’s 10% of the population.

To choose a vegetarian or meat-minimal lifestyle requires considerable thought and effort, and this is reflected in Australian vegetarians’ commitment to their health. According to the Roy Morgan figures, they are 50% more likely to agree with the statement “I favour natural medicines and health products” than the average Australian and 47% more likely to agree that “a low-fat diet is a way of life for me”.

Those who eat little or no meat are also more likely to enjoy healthy food, engage in formal exercise and avoid dairy foods. Vegetarians are also less likely to enjoy a tipple: 37% less likely than non-vegetarians, according to Roy Morgan.

Surprisingly, all this healthy living doesn’t always pay off: vegetarians are 59% more likely than the average Australian to be or have been anaemic in the past year and are 24% more likely to have experienced an anxiety disorder.

“Along with ethical reasons, health is one of the main motivations behind the decision to follow a primarily or totally vegetarian diet,” said Nick Williams, healthcare consultant with Roy Morgan Research.

“We’ve all heard about how reducing our red meat intake can improve our wellbeing, and our data does indicate that vegetarians are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular problems as well as being far less likely to be overweight or obese.

“However, it’s important to note that vegetarians are 27% more likely to be under 35 than the average Australian; an age when they’re less vulnerable to many illnesses and medical conditions anyway.

“Our data also shows that many people who eat little or no meat tend to practise other good health habits as well: they’re less likely to drink excessively or eat food high in fat or containing dairy, and more likely to exercise than the average Australian.

“But this doesn’t make them exempt from health issues: anaemia is a common problem, as a plant-based diet can be low in iron; and they’re significantly more likely to experience mood and behavioural disorders such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, anorexia or bulimia.”

Vegetarians are most likely to fall in the Metrotechs category of Roy Morgan’s Helix Personas profiling tool. Metrotechs are “well educated, high income young singles” who are professionals and typically rent in the inner city, according to the Helix Personas website.

“As well as being environmentally aware and health conscious, these individuals are often from ethnic backgrounds where vegetarianism is widespread,” Williams said.

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