AIHW urges caution on 'fattest nation in the world' claims

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) today urged caution on recent claims that Australia was the 'fattest nation in the world'.

AIHW Director Dr Penny Allbon said that although there was little doubt that Australia was in the worst third of developed nations for prevalence of adult obesity, the Institute did not know of any reliable statistics that would support the claim that we were worse than all other countries.

'Having said this, there is no doubt the picture on overweight and obesity in Australia is not a good one', Dr Allbon said.

It's important that any claims about the level of overweight and obesity in the community come from surveys that sample all sections of the population in a statistically valid way.

'Based on the reliable statistics available, overweight and obesity in Australia have increased significantly over the last 20-30 years.'

'In our Australia's health 2008 report being released today, we quote from the 2004-05 National Health Survey in estimating that 7.4 million adults in Australia were overweight in 2004-05, with over 30% of those being obese.

'These figures are higher than recorded in previous surveys, for all age groups, with the exception of people aged 65-74.

'The 2004-05 survey asked people to state their own height and weight, and we know that people tend to overestimate their height and underestimate their weight.

'The next National Health Survey, which is currently under way, measures people's height and weight, and we look forward to receiving the results.'

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Further information: Dr Paul Magnus, AIHW Medical Adviser, mob. 0407 915 851, and Dr Penny Allbon, AIHW Director, mob. 0418 454 924.

General media enquiries: Nigel Harding, mob. 0409 307 671, or Belinda Hellyer, mob. 0401 658 465.

For media copies of Australia's health 2008: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.