Risk factors for health
This analytical profile on risk factors for health is structured as follows:
There are a number of attributes, characteristics and/or exposure of individuals which increases the likelihood of developing a disease or injury. In the country there are a few risk factors which mainly accounts for non-communicable diseases. These include unhealthy diets, tobacco use, harmful alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, overweight and obesity raised blood pressure and raised blood glucose.
A survey conducted by WHO in 2009 on Non- Communicable disease risk factors surveillance reported an average of 7.9% prevalence of smoking among the 55 – 64 years age group, followed by 7.3% among the 45-54 years age group. In Swaziland, tobacco consumption seems to increase with age and males were six times likely to use tobacco products than females.
Similarly males were more likely to have consumed alcohol as compared to females. While the association of alcohol consumption oesophageal cancer, liver disease, homicide, epileptic seizures, and motor vehicle accidents globally Swaziland is no exception.
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is likely to lead to spontaneous abortion, low birth weight and prematurity and intra- uterine growth retardation. Widely noted in Swaziland, alcohol consumption interferes with an individual’s responsible behaviour in social roles such as responsible parenting within a spouse. Obesity in Swaziland is more prevalent among women. The WHO 2009 risk factors surveillance report noted that the mean body mass index for females was 29 kg/m2 while men stood at 25kg/m2.
Some cultural beliefs in the country promote intergenerational sex and polygamous marriages. This leads to gender inequalities and female subordination. Cultural disposition also place women and girls at a greater risk of HIV infection, due to social disempowerment and the inability to make decisions about sexual preferences. Women are more vulnerable to infection because they cannot exercise their right to safer sex with their husbands or partners in sexual relationships.
Poverty and unemployment are major causes of risky practices such as early forced marriage and exchange of sexual favours for money.