New report weighs in on relationship between obesity and poor health

The relationship between obesity and poor health is highlighted in a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Health, wellbeing and bodyweight: characteristics of overweight and obesity in Australia 2001 shows that obese men and women were much more likely to report fair or poor health compared to their healthy weight counterparts (26% of obese men and 28% of obese women compared with 17% and 16% of healthy weight men and women respectively).

Long term health conditions such as diabetes, heart and circulatory conditions, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol were more commonly reported by obese and overweight women and men.

Report co-author Kathleen O'Brien noted 'A clear relationship was found between weight and the prevalence of heart and circulatory conditions, with the likelihood of reporting a heart or circulatory condition rising with increasing weight.'

Interestingly, some specific health conditions were more commonly reported in obese women compared with healthy weight women, than in the corresponding categories of men.

A total of 9% of obese women reported having diabetes compared with 2% of healthy weight women. There was also quite a significant gap with the incidence of high blood pressure in women (28% vs. 12% respectively).

Obese women were also more likely to have visited a hospital or doctor in the past fortnight.

Kathleen O'Brien said there were also some interesting results in the area of health behaviours, considering health conditions and use of health services were found to be more common among overweight people.

'Overweight people were more likely to drink skim milk than healthy weight adults, for example.

'We also discovered that smoking was more common among healthy weight men (30%) than in those that were obese (24%), while no relationship between weight status and smoking was found in women.'

'In contrast, it was reported that obese men and women were less likely to participate in moderate to high levels of physical activity than their healthy weight counterparts.'

4 March 2004

Further information: Kathleen O'Brien , AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1220 or 0407 915 851 (mobile) or Bonnie Field, AIHW, 02 6244 1287

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