Internet addiction has become a new threat to healthy living for Malaysians, depriving them of sleep and exercise, a survey by a global insurance group has found.
A whopping 73% of Malaysian adults who took part in the 2013 AIA Healthy Living Index survey admitted that their online activities and social networking were getting addictive, putting the country amongst those with the highest addiction rates in the Asia-Pacific region.
The poll by AIA Group covered over 10,000 adults in 15 Asia Pacific markets.
Of some 900 Malaysian respondents, 81% stated that spending time online prevented them from getting enough exercise or sleep while 80% claimed that their posture was affected.
The survey noted that this addictive trend would continue to be fuelled by children growing up with the Internet as an integral part of their lives.
On healthy living, 67% of adults in Malaysia felt that their health was not as good as it was five years ago.
Overall, Malaysia scored 61 out of 100 points in the survey.
Malaysia also fared poorly in the area of healthy habits, with 32% of adults admitting that they did not exercise regularly.
On average, Malaysians spent only 2.5 hours on exercise a week, below the regional average of three hours and below the ideal recommended by most experts.
Sufficient sleep was rated the most important driver of healthy living in Malaysia and the region.
While adults in Malaysia desired eight hours of sleep, they only had 6.4 hours on average, leading to a sleep gap of 1.6 hours, the third highest in the region.
Spending time online was listed as one of the causes of this sleep deprivation.
The survey mentioned that these not very positive health habits were aggravated by a preference for sedentary ways to relieve stress, such as watching TV or movies, playing computer or mobile games and spending time online.
Spending time with family and children or friends was also a popular way to de-stress for Malaysians.
Meanwhile, healthy food habits were still limited to the basics of drinking more water as well as eating more fruits and vegetables, although 56% of Malaysian adults were also trying to eat less sweets and snacks.
There was also much concern about obesity – 64% of Malaysian adults said they wanted to lose weight, above the regional average of 53%. Further, 93% agreed that obesity among younger people was a worrying trend.
Cancer, heart disease and being overweight were the top health concerns in Malaysia, with the former two being above regional averages.
Despite these concerns, only 50% of Malaysian adults had medical check-ups in the past 12 months.
The study found that 89% of adults in Malaysia felt that employers should help employees live a healthy lifestyle, mainly by providing free health checks, not subjecting employees to undue stress and ensuring workloads were not excessive.
AIA Bhd chief executive officer Bill Lisle said the company was committed to helping Malaysians live longer and healthier lives.
“Through this extensive survey, we are keen to identify and enhance awareness of the key trends that impact the health of adults so we can actively work with the community and our customers to promote more positive attitudes.”
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