Australian adults are at risk of losing fight against flab

Almost 17% of Australian adults aged 20 years and over were obese in 2001, and a further 34% were overweight but not obese, according to the latest figures released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The AIHW bulletin, Are all Australians gaining weight?, shows that obesity increased considerably in the last decade, from around 10% of adults in 1989-90 to 17% in 2001.

Bonnie Field of the AIHW's Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes and Risk Factor Monitoring Unit, said that the problem of increasing overweight and obesity was widespread, affecting people from a range of different backgrounds, with no group escaping the trend.

'Men were more likely than women to be overweight (59% compared to 43%). But men and women were just as likely to be obese (16% and 17% respectively).'

'Women in the most disadvantaged socioeconomic group had nearly double the rate of obesity of those in the most advantaged group (23% versus 12%). The situation was similar for men in the same two groups (20% and 13%).'

The study also found that Indigenous Australians are almost twice as likely to be obese than other Australians (these results exclude those living in remote areas).

'In 2001, almost one-third (31%) of Indigenous people were considered obese, which is almost double the rate of obesity of other Australians', said Ms Field.

Queensland had the highest rate of obesity at 18.5%, followed by South Australia (17.6%), New South Wales (16.9%), Tasmania (16.5%), Victoria (15.5%) and Western Australia (15.1%). The ACT had the lowest obesity rate at 13.5% (no data were available for the Northern Territory).

Other findings from Are all Australians gaining weight? include:

  • the prevalence of overweight and obesity increased markedly with age through to 64 years in both men and women, with a decrease in later years.
  • although 20-24-year-olds are less likely to be overweight or obese than older Australians, the prevalence of obesity in this age group more than doubled between 1989-90 and 2001 from 4.4% to 9.5%.
  • adults living outside the major cities showed higher rates of overweight than other Australians.

This bulletin is the second in a series of bulletins on overweight and obesity in Australia. The first study examined trends among Australian adults and compared these results with international data.

10 December 2003

Further information: Ms Bonnie Field, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1287, or Ms Kathleen O'Brien, AIHW, tel. 6244 1220
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.