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The number of hospitalisations for weight loss surgery has increased dramatically over the past decade, rising from about 500 in 1998 to 17,000 in 2007-08, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

The report, Weight loss surgery in Australia, shows that between 1998-99 and 2007-08 the number of hospital admissions for weight loss surgery increased by an average of 54% per year, while the total number of all hospital admissions increased on average by less than 4% per year over the same period.

‘While many overweight people rely on lifestyle factors—such as improved diet and increased physical activity—to lose weight, the report shows a significant increase in the number of people undergoing weight loss surgery,’ said Ms Jenny Hargreaves, Head of the Institute’s Hospitals and Performance Group.

Almost four in five admissions were for women, and women having weight loss surgery tended to be younger than men who had these procedures.

‘This is somewhat disproportionate, as according to the 2007–08 National Health Survey, 68% of men are overweight or obese, while for women the figure is 55%,’ Ms Hargreaves said.

‘Over 90% of the admissions for weight loss surgery were in private hospitals, with 82% funded by private health insurance.’

In 2007-08, the estimated cost of hospital care for weight loss procedures was about $12.5 million in the public sector, and $96 million in the private sector.

Admission rates for weight loss surgery were lowest for people living in the most disadvantaged areas of Australia, while people living in areas classified in the middle socioeconomic group had the highest admission rate for these procedures.

‘In 2007-08, about $15.2 million in benefits was paid through the Medicare Benefits Schedule for weight loss surgery-related procedures,’ Ms Hargreaves said.

The most common weight loss procedure was Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding accounting for over 72% of admissions in 2007-08.

The average length of hospital stay for admissions for weight loss surgery was just under 2 days, with 18% being same-day admissions.

Friday 19 November 2010

Further information: Ms Jenny Hargreaves, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1121, mob. 0407 012 520

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.

Full report: Weight loss surgery in Australia