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Meat-free, health-conscious and a little bit anxious: Australia’s vegetarians

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), July 2012 – June 2013 (n = 20,267).
What do comedian Chris Lilley, musician Missy Higgins and cricketing legend Greg Chappell have in common? They’re all vegetarian, and part of a slow but steady trend towards meat-free (or at least, meat-minimal) living in Australia. The latest figures from Roy Morgan Research show that the number of Aussies 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 (or 10% of the population) as of June 2013.

From reducing our risk of heart disease to avoiding weight gain, the health benefits of a meat-free diet are well documented. Medical statistics aside, there’s no doubt that vegetarians are more health-conscious than the average Australian — in both attitudes and behaviour.

Meat-free is only the beginning

Choosing to eat all or mainly vegetarian food is not a decision to be made lightly, and this is reflected in Australian vegetarians’ commitment to their health. They are 50% more likely to agree with the statement ‘I favour natural medicines and health products’ than the average Aussie, and 47% more likely to agree that ‘a low fat diet is a way of life for me’. What’s more, they’re 23% likelier to ‘love to do as many sports as possible’.

Vegetarians vs average Australians: how they compare on health issues

This chart shows the index of the target profile group compared to the population, with 100 being the average. Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), July 2012 – June 2013 (n = 20,267).

People who eat little or no meat are also more likely than the average Australian to enjoy health food, to engage in formal exercise and to avoid dairy foods whenever they can. Curiously, it seems that a meat-free lifestyle may have some bearing on alcohol consumption too: in any given seven-day period, adult vegetarians are 37% less likely to have enjoyed a tipple than the average Australian.

Nick Williams, Healthcare Consultant, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“Along with ethical reasons, health is one of the main motivations behind the decision to follow a primarily or totally vegetarian diet. We’ve all heard about how reducing our red meat intake can improve our well-being, 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. However, they are more likely to experience mood disorders such as anxiety, even adjusting for the increased ratio of females. A 2012 academic review by Angela Saunders et al in MJA found that vegetarian diets generally contain as much or more iron than mixed diets containing meat, and that vegetarians are no more likely to suffer from iron deficiency anaemia than meat eaters. 

“Viewed through the lens of Roy Morgan’s in-depth new profiling tool Helix Personas, vegetarians are most likely to be found in the Metrotechs Community: particularly Social Flyers, Quiet Achievers and Social Academics (but above average in most Metrotech personas). As well as being environmentally aware and health-conscious, these individuals are often from ethnic backgrounds where vegetarianism is widespread.”

For comments or more information please contact:
Nick Williams
Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals Consultant
Office: +61 (2) 9021 9174
Mobile: +61 412 106 330

Related Research Reports

View our extensive range of Food Attitude Profiles, including ‘The food I eat is all, or almost all, vegetarian’, or our range of Health and Wellbeing profiles.  These profiles provide a broad understanding of the target audience, in terms of demographics, attitudes, activities and media usage in Australia.

About Roy Morgan Research

Roy Morgan Research is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices in each state of Australia, as well as in New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan Research has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

In Australia, Roy Morgan Research is considered to be the authoritative source of information on financial behaviour, readership, voting intentions and consumer confidence. Roy Morgan Research is a specialist in recontact customised surveys which provide invaluable and effective qualitative and quantitative information regarding customers and target markets.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%