Residents at risk, health survey says
October 17, 2001
More than half of Douglas County residents are overweight, a fifth report they suffer from physical ailments that limit exercise and more than 70 percent say they drink alcohol regularly.
Results from a month-long community health assessment, a joint effort between three area hospitals, have been released and will be presented in the coming weeks during a series of public workshops.
The survey of 400 Douglas County residents finds that while 63 percent say they consider themselves in “excellent” or “very good” physical health, they do put themselves at risk by participating in unhealthy activities.
The survey was conducted in August by Professional Research Consultants of Omaha, Neb. It has a 4.9 percent plus or minus degree of error. The report was prepared for Carson-Tahoe Hospital, Carson Valley Medical Center and Barton Memorial Hospital.
“There are some definite surprises delineated in the survey,” said Cheryl Bricker, executive director of Partnership for Community Resources, a prevention coalition that looks for public grants that address health concerns.
For example, Douglas County has a high rate of alcohol use compared to the national average.
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According to the survey, current and chronic drinking levels in Douglas County, or the number of people who have used alcohol in the past month and those consuming 60 or more alcoholic drinks per month, are significantly higher among Douglas County adults than Americans overall.
Specifically, the study found that 70.2 percent surveyed said they consume one drink or more a month. The state average is 63.1 percent and nationally, 56.4 percent.
About 15 percent of those surveyed fell into the category of “chronic drinkers” or those who average two or more drinks per day. The state average is 7.4 percent and nationally, 5 percent.
Bricker said she thought that Douglas County had a high rate of alcohol use, but the numbers were much higher than she anticipated.
“It indicates that adult drinking is prevalent in our county, which is also difficult to address because it is a legal activity for adults,” she said. “What we need to look at are ways to educate the community about the difference between social drinking and chronic and binge drinking.”
About 20 percent of adults surveyed reported they “binged” or consumed five or more drinks in one sitting, at least once during the past month. Nationwide, the average is 16.4 percent and 21 percent statewide.
Another surprise was illicit drug consumption. While drug use remains low compared with alcohol consumption, 4.9 percent surveyed said they’ve used illegal drugs in the past year compared to 3.2 percent nationally.
The number was much higher than Bricker anticipated, adding that it is “cause for concern” and should be addressed.
“I didn’t realize that this percentage of our adult population out there experiments with illegal drugs,” she said. “Our county is made of up people who are highly educated and hold down jobs. I guess I just didn’t anticipate that we would be higher than the national average.”
Of the adults surveyed, 22.2 percent of Douglas County residents say they are regular smokers. Statewide, the average is 31 percent and nationally, 22.8 percent.
Broken down further, 22.3 percent of the smokers are women and 22.1 percent are men. Also noted in the survey is that Hispanics in Douglas County are much more likely to smoke than whites.
The good news is that a majority of regular smokers in Douglas County say they want to quit. Of those surveyed, 61.2 percent say they have quit smoking a day or longer during the past year. The national average is 52.2 percent.
“It is my personal observation but it seems like every third car going down the road in Douglas County someone has a cigarette in their mouth, and we know that our students are smoking, so it really surprised me that the level was that low,” Bricker said.
Just one percent of adults in Douglas County say they currently use smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco or snuff. The statewide average is 3.2 percent and nationally, 3.7 percent.
Residents have high cholesterol
Cholesterol levels in Douglas County also remain high. About 30.4 percent of adults in Douglas County have been told by a health professional that their cholesterol level unhealthy. This level is higher than the 21.4 percent recorded nationwide, but below the 35.1 percent reported statewide.
About 57 percent of those surveyed said they are taking action to control high blood pressure, compared to 70 percent recorded nationally.
Broken down into areas of prevention, the survey reports some good news. Douglas residents responded that they are active and participate in regular exercise activity and pay greater attention to nutrition.
Most adults surveyed said they perform some type of physical leisure activity outside of their jobs.
Among favorite activities, 41 percent of those surveyed said they walk regularly, followed by gardening, 10.4 percent, jogging, 4.5 percent, cycling, 4.5 percent, golf, 3.9 percent and weight training, 3.8 percent.
On the other hand, 14.9 percent of Douglas residents have not participated in any type of physical activity outside work during the past month. However, the percentage is more favorable than the 20.2 percent recorded nationwide and the 24.1 percent reported across Nevada.
Douglas County residents show a propensity to exercise for exercise sake, but not as much as the rest of the state.
About 23 percent of those surveyed exercise 30 or more minutes at least five times a week, the survey found. Statewide, the average is 25.6 percent and nationally, 16.9 percent.
“I was sure that more people in Douglas County exercised,” Bricker said.
Douglas County fares better than the national and statewide average regarding weight, however, more than half of the survey respondents identified themselves as overweight.
The survey found 52.4 percent said they were overweight, compared to 53.7 percent statewide and 56.9 percent nationally.
Of those who identified themselves as overweight, 17 percent fit what the survey identifies as obese. Nationwide, it’s 19.1 percent.
n Staff writer Jeff Munson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org