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Adults

Results from the 2011–12 Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Health Survey show that almost two-thirds (63%) of the population aged 18 and over are overweight or obese (35% overweight, 28% obese). Only one-third (36%) of Australian adults have a healthy body weight.

The body mass index (BMI) distribution varies between men and women. The distribution for men peaks at higher values, indicating that overweight/obesity is more common in men (70%) than in women (56%).

The proportion of overweight or obese adults in the population (based on measured height and weight) has increased in recent decades. The prevalence has increased from 57% in 1995 to 61% in 2007–08 and 63% in 2011–12. This is largely driven by an increase in the level of obesity from 19% to 27% over the period, with the proportion of overweight but not obese adults remaining similar (36% to 38%).

Between 1995 and 2011–12, the relative increase in the proportion of overweight or obese adults is higher in women (12%) than men (8%). However, the gap between men and women has remained similar.

Overweight or obese, persons aged 18 and over, 1995, 2007–08 and 2011–12

overweight-or-obese PNG

Notes:
1. Age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population.
2. Overweight and obesity classification based on measured height and weight in all 3 surveys.

Source: AIHW 2012, ABS 2013.

Inequalities

The level of overweight and obesity in adults varies according to geographical location and is highest in Inner regional and Outer regional and remote areas. Around three quarters of men living in Inner regional (75%) and Outer regional and remote (74%) areas are overweight or obese compared with just over two thirds (68%) of men living in Major cities. For women, around two thirds of women living in Inner regional (63%) and Outer regional and remote (69%) areas are overweight or obese compared with just over half (53%) who live in Major cities.

Among women, being overweight or obese varies according to socioeconomic group. Almost two thirds (63%) of women in the lowest socioeconomic group are overweight or obese, compared with almost half (47%) of those in the highest socioeconomic group. For men, however, the proportions of overweight or obesity are similar in each socioeconomic group, ranging from 68% to 71 %

Overweight or obese, persons aged 18 and over, by selected population characteristics, 2011–12

overweight-or-obese-by-selected-population-characteristics PNG 

Source: AIHW analysis of ABS 'Microdata: Australian Health Survey, Core Content—Risk Factors and Selected Health Conditions, 2011–12'.

International comparisons

Based on data for 2011 or the closest available year on measured height and weight for people aged over 15 years, more than half (53%) of adults in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries are overweight or obese [1]. Australia’s rate of obesity (28% of the population aged 15 and over) is fourth highest among 34 OECD countries, behind the United States (37%), Mexico (30%) and Hungary (29%). The average rate of obesity among OECD countries is 23%. Japan and Korea have the lowest rate of obesity at 4 %.

Obesity in selected OECD countries, persons aged 15 and over, 2011 or nearest year

international-comparison PNG

Source: OECD 2013.

Children

Results from the 2011-12 Australian Health Survey show that one quarter (25%) of children aged 2–17 are overweight or obese, with 18% being overweight and 7% obese. The proportion of boys who are overweight or obese is not significantly different from girls (25% compared with 26%).

Rates of overweight and obesity are similar across age groups, ranging from 23% for children aged 2–4 to 27% for adolescents aged 12–15. Boys aged 5–7 have the highest obesity rate (9%), and obesity among girls is most common at ages 5–7 and 16–17 (8%).

The proportion of children and adolescents aged 5–17 who are overweight or obese increased between 1995 and 2007–08 (21% and 25%, respectively) but has remained stable to 2011–12 (26%) [1].


References

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2013. Australian Health Survey: updated results, 2011–2012. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.003. Canberra: ABS.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2012. Risk factor trends: age patterns in key health risk factors over time. Cat. no. PHE 166. Canberra: AIHW.
  3. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 2013. Health at a glance 2013: OECD indicators. Paris: OECD Publishing.

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