Australian Government - Department of Health
A Healthy and Active Australia
A Healthy and Active Australia

Overweight and Obesity in Australia


Adults

For the first time since 1995 the 2007-08 National Health Survey (NHS) has measured the height, weight, hip and waist circumference of respondents aged 5 years or more.

Results from this survey reveal that in 2007-08, 61.4% of the Australian population are either overweight or obese1. The Australian Government is currently planning the implementation of an ongoing data collection to measure nutrition, physical activity, physical measurement and chronic disease risk factor data in the Australian population. The first survey will be undertaken as part of the Australian Health Survey which is due to commence in March 2011.

Older Australians

In 2007-081, 39.9% of males between the ages of 55-64, 45.1% of males between the ages of 65-74 and 52.8% of males aged 75 years and over, were classified as overweight while 35%, 33.9% and 21.5% respectively, were classified as obese.

For females, 34.6% between the ages of 55-64, 42% between the ages of 65-74 and 31.8% aged 75 years and over, were classified as overweight, while 33.4%, 29.4% and 25.1 % respectively, were classified as obese.

For more information on the 2007-08 National Health Survey visit the Australian Bureau of Statistics website at: www.abs.gov.au

Children and Adolescents

For children and adolescents, the 2007-08 National Health Survey results indicate that 24.9% of children aged 5 – 17 years are overweight or obese.
25.8% of boys and 24.0% of girls are either overweight or obese.

These results are similar to the 2007 Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (the Children’s Survey) released in October 2008. The Children’s survey measured food intake, physical activity participation and physical measurements in a sample of 4,487 children aged 2-16 years from across Australia.

For more information on the Children’s Survey visit the Department of Health and Ageing website at: www.health.gov.au/nutritionmonitoring

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Health consequences of overweight and obesity

For adults, the health problems and consequences of obesity are many and varied, including musculo-skeletal problems, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, sleep apnoea, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension to name a few2 Many of these health problems are preventable though a healthy and active lifestyle. In particular, regular physical activity reduces cardiovascular risk in its own right and also improves levels of cardiovascular risk factors such as overweight, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes3.

With respect to children, the most important long term consequence of childhood obesity is its persistence into adulthood. Once a child is overweight or obese it is unlikely that they will spontaneously revert to a healthy weight, predisposing them to the health concerns listed above for adults. Obese children and adolescents also suffer from an increase in medical conditions. For example, the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is increasing in children and adolescents. Other problems associated with excess weight in children and adolescence includes the development of sleep apnoea, heat intolerance, breathlessness on exertion, tiredness and flat feet. Some research suggests that obese children (particularly older girls) also tend to exhibit decreased self-esteem and a significant proportion of children use unhealthy dietary practices for weight control4.

For more information on how to calculate your BMI, and information on maintaining a healthy weight, visit healthy weight.

1Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008, National Health Survey 2007-08, Cat 4364.0.
2World Health Organization 2000, Obesity: Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic, WHO Technical Report Series 894.
3Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2008, Australia’s health 2008, Cat No. AUS99.
4National Health and Medical Research Council 2003, Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Children and Adolescents.