More Australians turning to weight loss surgery

With nearly two-thirds of Australian adults overweight or obese, weight loss surgery is becoming more common, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Weight loss surgery is an option for those who are very severely obese (a body mass index, or BMI, of more than 40), or severely obese (a BMI of over 35), with other health conditions that may improve with weight loss.

The report, Weight loss surgery in Australia 2014-15: Australian hospital statistics, shows that there were 22,700 admissions to hospital for weight loss surgery in 2014-15, up from 9,300 in 2005-06.

'In the ten years to 2014-15, hospital admissions for weight loss surgery increased more than three-fold in public hospitals and over two-fold in private hospitals,' said AIHW spokesperson Jenny Hargreaves.

'Over this period the majority of procedures-around 89%-were performed in private hospitals.'

The report also reveals that most weight loss surgery patients are female.

'Around 79% of weight loss surgery admissions were for women, and the highest number of admissions were among women aged between 35 and 44,' Ms Hargreaves said.

The majority (79%) of weight loss surgery involved an initial or primary procedure, while adjustments, revisions, removals and other procedures represented 21%.

There were 124,600 weight loss procedures billed to Medicare for weight loss surgery-related procedures in public, private and non-hospital settings, with almost $26 million in benefits paid through Medicare, and about $37 million of total out-of-pocket costs.

'Our report also shows significant variation across the states and territories, with Western Australia having the highest rate of weight loss surgery at over 17 admissions per 10,000 people, compared with the national average of about 10,' Ms Hargreaves said.

An AIHW report from December 2016 revealed the extent to which obesity rates varied across local areas, with higher rates of obesity seen in regional areas.

Meanwhile, a recent AIHW report showed that as little as 3 kilograms lost could have a substantial effect on the health impact of obesity in Australia. 

Canberra, 26 May 2017

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