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Survey Indicates Concerning Rise In Iron Deficiency Symptoms

The results from an online iron quiz titled ‘Could you be low on iron?’ – which checks for common signs and symptoms of iron deficiency – point to some worrying trends.

The results from the 37,000 global responses to this New Zealand quiz – which are being released to coincide with World Iron Awareness Week – saw over 62% of the respondents state they are struggling to get out of bed in the morning, 42% reporting they feel weak or dizzy all the time and over half saying they are short of breath after walking up a flight of steps.

Regina Wypych, Head of Nutrition at Beef + Lamb New Zealand, says whilst these results are a toe in the water insight to how people are feeling, it can’t be concluded from the survey alone that respondents are categorically suffering from iron deficiency. But if they are an indicative depiction of iron deficiency and its symptoms, it’s a worrying outlook.

“New Zealand statistics on iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia are becoming outdated, and we have limited current knowledge on the state of the nation’s iron health. Until we gain further knowledge on this, it’s really important to keep raising awareness through initiatives like World Iron Awareness Week,” says Regina.

“What we do know from the number of people taking part, is that it suggests people are interested in the impact of diet on our health and if anyone is concerned about their health, they should consider visiting a health professional.”

In New Zealand, the many supporting organisations of this year’s World Iron Awareness Week (22-28th August) will again highlight those most at risk of iron deficiency, the implications of being short on iron, dietary tips to optimise iron absorption along with a range of tasty iron-rich recipes.

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This year’s campaign asks, ‘Is low iron holding you back?’ When your energy levels are not what they should be and poor sleeping, late night Netflix, recovery from Covid or flu and life stresses can be dismissed, it could possibly be low iron causing tiredness, fatigue and headaches. Taking the quiz allows you to find out if you have any other signs and symptoms of low iron.

For more information and to take the quiz, visit


Background information:

One billion people globally are estimated by the World Health Organisation to be suffering from iron deficiency anaemia[1]. Although iron deficiency anaemia occurs at all ages and involves both genders, adolescent girls are more prone to it. The highest prevalence of global iron deficiency anaemia is between the ages of 12 and 15 years when requirements are at peak. In some countries, up to 50% of adolescent girls have been reported to be anaemic[2].

Here in Aotearoa, the statistics don’t look much better. Based on the most recent national nutrition survey from 2009[3], one in fourteen women are iron deficient and, worryingly, a third of teenage girls do not achieve their daily iron requirements, with more research needed to understand the current situation.

What has this meant for our already under pressure district health boards? The cost of hospitalisations - primarily due to iron deficiency anaemia crept up from an annual $3.2 million to over $6.7m in the ten years between 2008-2018[4].


[1] Murray CJL, Salomon JA, Mathers CD, Lopez AD. The global burden of disease. Geneva: World Health Organization. (2002).

[2] Prevention of Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Adolescents. Role of Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation. World Health Organisation. (2011).

[3] University of Otago and Ministry of Health. (2011). A Focus on Nutrition: Key findings of the 2008/09 New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

[4] More spent on low iron hospitalisations as meat intake declines - 1st January 2019

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